American Lung Association releases annual report about air pollution

All eight counties in San Joaquin Valley get "F's"

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -  

State of the Air 2013, an annual report on air quality which lists both the cleanest and most polluted areas in the country. This year’s report shows that residents in the San Joaquin Valley continue to breathe dangerous levels of both ozone and particulate pollution, threatening the lives and health of millions of residents. Despite significant reductions in ozone “smog” pollution over time, all eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley air basin (Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare) received an F for ozone pollution, and grades for both short term and annual particulate pollution remain poor.

“The State of the Air 2013 report shows that California is continuing the long-term trend to cleaner and much healthier air,” said Jane Warner, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in California. “This progress in cleaning up air pollution demonstrates that our clean air laws are working. However, our report also shows that air pollution continues to put lives at risk throughout the state. We must step up our efforts to cut pollution so all Californians can breathe clean, healthy air.”

The San Joaquin Valley has shown significant progress in reducing ozone pollution with reductions in unhealthy ozone days between 39 and 68 percent in several counties since the first State of the Air report began in 2000. The Valley also has seen reductions in annual levels of particle pollution. However, multiple cities in the region still rank prominently on the list of worst polluted cities in the nation. Despite strong efforts by state and local regulators, the San Joaquin Valley has not experienced the same levels of reductions as other areas in the state. Particle pollution controls, including the air district’s strong wood burning regulation, are making a difference, but additional efforts are needed. 

The challenge is due mainly to locally generated mobile and area sources of emissions such as cars, trucks, buses and construction and agricultural equipment, and residential wood burning. The weather and terrain of the Valley, including hot temperatures, bordering mountains and periods of stagnant air, heighten air quality problems by forming and trapping pollutants, especially in southern parts of the Valley.Overall, California cities still dominate lists for the most polluted areas in the nation for ozone (smog) as well as short-term and annual particle pollution. Specifically, of the top ten cities with the worst air pollution, California municipalities rank as follows:

Despite these rankings, many California cities continue to show significant improvements in reducing unhealthy ozone and particulate pollution. California’s slow yet steady progress toward healthy air can be attributed to its strong history of leadership on air and climate policies, including the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown.  Governor Brown’s work to champion zero emission vehicle and clean fuel policies, including the ZEV Action Plan and California’s alternative fuels standard (Low Carbon Fuel Standard), is moving California forward to cleaner air and bringing more transportation choices.

California’s pollution problems are primarily caused by emissions from transportation sources including cars, diesel trucks and buses, locomotives, ships, agricultural and construction equipment. Currently, the American Lung Association in California is sponsoring Senate Bill 11 (Pavley) and Assembly Bill 8 (Perea and Skinner), two bills that will help clean the air and improve public health by extending two highly successful California air quality incentive programs for another decade and raising over $200 million in incentive funds annually. These programs support the transition to cleaner vehicles and the clean alternative fuels needed to meet state clean air and climate targets and provide near-term benefits by cutting toxic diesel pollution. These programs are an important complement to the state’s regulatory framework because they provide financial incentives for early introduction of clean vehicles and technologies.

Air pollution problems also are caused by emissions from oil refineries, manufacturing plants, and residential wood burning. In addition, California’s warm climate promotes the formation of ozone pollution, and valleys and mountains in the central and eastern portions of the state trap pollution where it can linger for days and put residents at risks for the onset or exacerbation of lung disease.

“Ozone and particle pollution contribute to thousands of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and deaths every year and our most vulnerable citizens are most at risk – children, the elderly and those with lung disease such as asthma, lung cancer, chronic

bronchitis, or emphysema,” said David Tom Cooke, M.D., Assistant Professor, Section Head of General Thoracic Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of California, Davis Medical Center and Governing Board Member for the American Lung Association in California. “Cleaner air saves lives, and can lead to better health and quality of life for everyone.”

The Lung Association led the fight for a new, national air quality standard that strengthened outdated limits on annual levels of particle pollution, announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last December.  Now the Lung Association is fighting for a strong national clean car standard and defending the Federal Clean Air Act, our nation’s bedrock clean air law.  Thanks to national air pollution standards set under the Clean Air Act and the EPA enforcement of these standards, as well as California’s own groundbreaking air quality policies, the U.S. has seen continued reductions in air pollution.

“California must continue to demonstrate leadership in achieving clean and healthy air for all residents,” said Warner. “This can be done by supporting statewide initiatives such as Senate Bill 11 and Assembly Bill 8, and by making an effort to reduce air pollution in our own communities. Driving less, using cleaner transportation options like hybrid cars and electric vehicles, and avoiding wood burning, can make a huge difference in improving the air we breathe.”   For more information on the American Lung Association State of the Air Report and a list of steps individuals can take to clean the air, the public should visit www.lung.org/california .

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