Air quality unhealthy due to drought and pollution, officials urge caution

Poor air quality continues Valley-wide.

The air basin lingers under a high-pressure system that has kept emissions from escaping. The eight counties of the air basin have been under wood-burning prohibitions for several days.

“This is an unusual, persistent atmospheric condition that has kept levels of particulates in the Unhealthy and Very Unhealthy ranges for several days, and created difficult health conditions for many residents,” said Jaime Holt, the District’s chief communications officer.

Although emissions have decreased throughout the Valley in recent years, atmospheric stagnation coupled with lack of rain are causing emissions to accumulate.

Particulate pollution is particularly harmful and has been correlated with asthma episodes, bronchial infections, heart attacks and even stroke.

When particulates are high, resulting in air quality that is Unhealthy and Very Unhealthy, air officials urge residents to refrain from outdoor exertion, especially at school sites and outdoor sporting events, where children are active.

People who are especially susceptible to harm from high particulate levels include children, elderly people and people with respiratory and cardiac conditions.

The Air District offers a free tool with which residents can check their localized, real-time air quality. It’s called the Real-Time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) and subscription is easy:  http://www.valleyair.org/Programs/RAAN/raan_monitoring_system.html.

During periods such as this, rain and wind is needed to disperse accumulated pollutants. Although a system is expected to pass through the Valley on Thursday, officials are not confident it will be strong enough to clean the air.

Daily wood-burning and air-quality forecasts are issued each day at 4:30 p.m. for the following day beginning at midnight. Forecasts can be found at www.valleyair.org, at 1-800 SMOG INFO (766-4463), with a free iPhone app, Valley Air, and through most local media.

For more information, contact a District office in Fresno (559-230-6000), Modesto (209-557-6400) or Bakersfield (661-392-5500).

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