Horrendous air or no let the Friday night football games begin

I am fast reminded of the hit song: “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” If this song is indeed about unyielding resolve, then it seems more than appropriate, as it would appear the overarching Friday night sentiment, unhealthy Fresno air or no, was: “Football: bring it on!” Not even the air, as filthy as it was, was going to put a damper on these activities, apparently. I ask: Does the notion: “It is best to err on the side of caution” mean anything to anyone, anymore, I wonder?

To provide background, on Nov. 7th the local air was heavy with fine particulates. How heavy?

In Clovis, a suburb to Fresno’s north and east, for example, the PM 2.5 reading at 12 noon was a very unhealthy 115 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Even at 9 a.m. the level was 92 micrograms (very unhealthy). And, by midnight? It was still at an unhealthy 63 micrograms. As I am writing this, the concentration is 88 micrograms per cubic meter.

Meanwhile, in Central Fresno, the concentration of fine particulate matter spiked to 93 micrograms per cubic meter. The only time air ever dipped into the moderate range was at 8 a.m. when the corresponding reading was 31 micrograms. Between 10 a.m. and midnight air was again unhealthy.

According to an article written by Mark Grossi and Barbara Anderson and posted on The Fresno Bee’s “Earth Log” blog, the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition urged the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to cancel end-of-high-school-season football games. It is presumed the request was made due to the fine-particulate matter concentrations present in area air.

Quoted, meanwhile, by Grossi and Anderson in the Nov. 7, 2014 blog post, is Central Valley Air Quality Coalition steering board member Kevin Hall, a former coalition executive director, who was shocked that student athlete health, from what I understand, was being put unnecessarily at increased risk; this, as I see it, having the appearance that Hall’s message went unheeded by either the representative school districts or regional air board. This is my understanding of things.

Air district Executive Director and Air Pollution Control Officer Seyed Sadredin did, however, express the district has no legal authority to keep a football game from being played, according to what Grossi and Anderson wrote.

What’s more, in a Nov. 7th air district press release, Sadredin was frank. He insisted: “‘Because of abnormal weather conditions, we are experiencing unusually high pollution levels that are dangerous to public health.’”

Added Sadredin in the same release: “‘We are asking the public to refrain from burning and to also reduce driving.’”

But, also in the release was this: “While abnormal weather conditions are the primary cause for the high pollution, any added pollution will make the current conditions even worse.”

That is but the half of it. No less relevant in my opinion are other interviewee responses in the aforementioned Bee blog post.

According to the authors in question, a cross-country coach in the Clovis Unified School District, Bill Buettner expressed that football games will go on as planned, although he had indicated that there was modified cross-county practice. It was not explained what specifically that modified practice consisted of or what was different about it.

Clovis Unified spokesperson Kelly Avants, in the Earth Log post, meanwhile, insisted air conditions were being monitored by the hour and offered that in order for a district game to be cancelled, two back-to-back unhealthy air-monitor readings must occur.

Now, if you’re wondering whether or not occurring were consecutive unhealthy-air readings during the expected time of game play, here are corresponding Clovis Air Monitoring Data PM 2.5 levels (expressed in micrograms per cubic meter) for Nov. 7th as it relates:

  • 6 p.m. – 74 (ROAR LEVEL 4, Unhealthy)
  • 7 p.m. – 76 (ROAR LEVEL 5, Very Unhealthy)
  • 8 p.m. – 68 (ROAR LEVEL 4, Unhealthy)
  • 9 p.m. – 66 (ROAR LEVEL 4, Unhealthy)
  • 10 p.m. – 68 (ROAR LEVEL 4, Unhealthy)
  • 11 p.m. – 65 (ROAR LEVEL 4, Unhealthy)

While I can’t speak for Avants, those listed above look to me to be back-to-back unhealthy air-quality readings.

Just for your information, the monitor for the City of Madera showed a very unhealthy PM 2.5 reading of 144 micrograms per cubic meter of air and occurred at 11 a.m., a LEVEL 5 ROAR LEVEL rating.

– Alan Kandel

3 thoughts on “Horrendous air or no let the Friday night football games begin”

  1. A one-hour football game is nothing. The PM 2.5 health standard is based on a 24-hour exposure, not a one hour period. By the scientific standard itself, one hour is not “unhealthy”. Most players aren’t even on the field for the full 60 minutes of play. Much ado about nothing. What’s a “ROAR LEVEL” anyway? It’s not even a recognized scientific scale. It’s nonsense made up by the local air district to push their heroin on the masses and get alarmists all worked up into a frenzy. If this was year-round I’d agree. A couple games is eco-alarmist ridiculousness.

    • Please reference: “$64 million question: To exercise or not in the presence of dirty air.” (http://alankandel.scienceblog.com/2013/05/30/64-million-question-to-exercise-or-not-in-the-presence-of-dirty-air) This has relevance here.

      In it, I wrote: “Air pollution and what effect this has on human health and what role exercise may play is an area of discussion I am extremely interested in.

      “So, should a person engage in aerobic activity if one resides in a location where air pollution is present, like where I live in Fresno, California, where air is often either unhealthy or unhealthy for sensitive groups?

      “So, I found this Huffington Post article, “Exercise and Air Pollution” [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-greenfield/air-pollution-health_b_3277086.html] and in it writer Ben Greenfield provides insight.

      “Greenfield noted: ‘According to a 2004 Australian review [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15367733] of pollution studies worldwide, during exercise, even very minimal concentration of air pollutants can damage the lungs.’

      “The triathlon and fitness expert then goes on to explain how this happens.

      “‘This happens because harmful particles from the air can get past the nasal hairs, the body’s first line of defense. Ultimately, these particles end up in the lungs thus causing inflammation and irritation. These particles sometimes end up in the bloodstream as well. When this occurs, the risk for heart attack and stroke then increases. So since working out means you’ll have to breathe deeper, then more of these particle pollutants get to pass through your nasal filtering.’”

      It is known that PM 2.5 can trigger asthma attacks. See: “Asthma study finds seasonal surprises.” (http://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/local/central-valley/article3243783.html)

      According to Mark Grossi in Merced Sun-Star article, based on a new study, lung problems worsen in those in Fresno with asthma during episodes of increased soot pollution.

      Further on, Grossi wrote: “Over the last 18 months, [Tim] Tyner [an associate professor of clinical studies at the University of California at San Francisco-Fresno Medical Education Program] and pulmonologist Jose Joseph, associate professor of medicine at UCSF-Fresno, intensely studied the effects of pollution on nine Fresno residents who have asthma.”

      Included in the study also were nine non-asthmatic women whose problems with fine particulate matter pollution were fewer, according to the environmental reporter, although small-airways narrowing in these women’s lungs was evident.

  2. I’ve located an updated newsstory titled: “Poor air quality almost cancels high school football game in Clovis” (http://abc30.com/weather/poor-air-quality-almost-cancels-hs-football-game-in-clovis/386202). I have since learned from this account and have now become aware that in order for Clovis Unified School District-related outdoor sporting events to be cancelled, two LEVEL 5 (very unhealthy) back-to-back hourly readings of pollution must occur. There was only one that occurred and that was at the 7 p.m. hour.

    What’s more, added to the fine particulate matter pollution present in the air was fireworks activity at one stadium.

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