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Stifling temperatures and low air quality impacting everyday life in Kern County

Hot Temperatures (FILE)
Posted at 5:45 PM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-06 15:06:18-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As the latest heatwave continues, everyday life in Kern County is being affected. The high temperatures and low air quality makes for a situation that isn't just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. The heat combined with the air quality creates conditions that are not only unhealthy for sensitive groups, but for everyone.

"The average individual that has no respiratory condition might still feel scratchy throat, headache, tightness in the chest, feeling just a little bit like maybe a summer cold is approaching," says Outreach and Communications Manager for the San Joaquin Valley Air District Heather E. Heinks. "Those are all impacts from a long-term exposure to air pollution."

According to Valley Air, an Air Quality Index of 150 or higher is unhealthy, and an AQI higher than that can become hazardous. To help Bakersfield residents avoid being exposed to the elements, Golden Empire Transit offers free rides on fixed routes and paratransit on days when the AQI is projected to be 150 or higher.

"I think it's both for people's safety to get on the buses," says Janet Sanders, Director of Marketing for GETBus. "It's air conditioned, you can get around town rather than walking, but it's also environmental."

Staying indoors in an air conditioned space is ideal for these conditions, but it's something that players and coaches of outdoor sports have to grapple with. Kern High School District
has had to push back and reschedule their football games and other outdoor sports in order to contend with the triple-digit temperatures.

"If you send kids out that aren't accustomed to that temperature and they exert themselves, they're subject to heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and it just presents a lot of significant health issues that we're just not willing to risk," says Stan Greene, Director of School Support Services for KHSD.

The Valley Air District recommends using an air conditioner to cool indoor spaces and filter some of the particulates out of the air. For those who do not have air conditioning, the district recommends putting a minimum efficiency reporting value-rated filter on a regular box fan and having it circulate the air in a single room.

"Real high pressure system sitting over the valley, and any emissions that we create or have created within the last ten days are kind of still here with us," says Heinks. They also recommend drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and to help your body flush out any air pollutants you may have breathed in.