Call to action: Save our skies, air, lungs … please!

Air Quality Matters blog was introduced on Nov. 5, 2012 with: “Smog more than an eyesore – it’s a wake-up call,” the focus of which was San Joaquin Valley, California, air pollution – and, most notably, smog.

Human_respiratory_system-NIH[1] (340x226)One poignant comment I made was: “Why the discoloration in the air isn’t more alarming to more people is perplexing. Apparently it is not an important-enough concern or people feel loath to do much about trying to correct it – one of the two. The fact that the effect dirty Valley air is having on heart, lung and respiratory function should be a wake-up call and that it apparently isn’t is an outrage!”

In the year-and-a-month since “Smog more than an eyesore” was posted, at this very point in time I feel the condition of California air is still much the worse for wear. Instead of ozone or smog, this time the focus is on particulate matter and, in particular, particles 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, which is otherwise known as PM 2.5.

Like oil and water, Valley air and particle pollution, well, they just don’t mix.

Between Thurs. Dec. 19th and Wed. Dec. 25th, PM 2.5 pollution in the air, generally speaking, goes from bad to worse.

The average concentration of fine particulates in the air for the San Joaquin Valley counties (north to south, for all intents and purposes) of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern, for Dec. 19th through Dec. 25th respectively (in micrograms per cubic meter of air) were: 23.02, 17.5, 24.98, 33.44, 37.04, 44.5 and 51.35. Remember: these are daily averages for the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley.

Meanwhile, the daily maximum PM 2.5 readings for all eight counties over that same seven-day stretch were: 45, 35, 39, 45, 46, 58 and 81. The ambient air quality standards for PM 2.5, incidentally, are:

  • National 24-hour – 35 micrograms per cubic meter
  • National Annual Arithmetic Mean – 15 micrograms per cubic meter
  • California Annual Arithmetic Mean – 12 micrograms per cubic meter

So, the daily maximum readings between Dec. 19th and Dec. 25th were equal to or exceeded even the standard least protective of public health, this being the National 24-hour standard. Not good.

In fact, on Christmas Day, according to posted information accessed via the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Web site for PM 2.5 for all eight Valley counties shows the observed (actual) Air Quality Index readings consisted of a low of 117 (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) for the northern-most Valley county of San Joaquin to 164 (Unhealthy) for Kern County, the southern-most Valley county. Projections for today show an equally bleak outlook.

Noticeably absent this time of year is rain.

In its place is a raining down of fine particulate matter pollution or so it would seem.

The culprits?Diesel-smoke[1]







Image at top: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

– Alan Kandel

This post was last revised on Dec. 14, 2019 @ 8:47 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.