County receives failing air quality grade
San Joaquin County’s air quality is among the worst in the state, and this week it received an “F” grade from the American Lung Association.
In the organization’s 2022 State of the Air report, the county received an “F” for Ozone, and “F” for particle pollution in a 24-hour period, and a failing grade for annual particle pollution.
The county received an “F” for Ozone because it experienced an average of 5.3 high ozone days between 2018 and 2020, and should have had an average of 3.2 days or less to receive a passing grade.
It received an “F” for particle pollution in a 24hour period because it experienced an average 25.3 days of high particle days in the same time period. Once again, the county needed to average 3.2 days or less to receive a passing grade.
In addition, the county received a failing grade for annual particle pollution because the average annual concentration of pollution was 13.8 microgram per cubic meter between 2018 and 2020. A concentration of 12 micrograms per cubic meter or less would have given the county a passing grade.
The report said the poor air quality in the county posed a risk for 13,971 children and 52,942 adults with asthma, as well as 29,509 with COPD and 38,004 with cardiovascular disease.
Daniel Kim, spokesman for San Joaquin County Public Health Services, said the impact on health
from air quality is something the agency has been seeing for some time.
He said the county is one of the top three in the state with the highest rates of asthma among residents.
“It’s really a combination of poor air quality and climate factors,” he said. “Wildfires certainly exacerbate air quality, but we’re finding in older homes, that as structures age, materials inside can cause poor indoor quality as well.”
Kim said staff has also seen healthy residents from other counties develop symptoms of asthma, COPD and cardiovascular disease after living in the region for extended periods of time. He added that air quality particularly impacts the county’s Black and Hispanic residents, but staff is unsure why that is.
“We’ve known (about the impacts) for some time,” he said. “It’s just a very difficult challenge with regard to how to mitigate those factors.”
San Joaquin County was not alone in receiving an “F” grade in the report. Of the state’s 58 counties, 32 received a grade of “F,” including Stanislaus, Sacramento, Calaveras, Amador, Alameda and Contra Costa.
Only eight counties — Colusa, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Sonoma — received “A” grades.
Napa, San Benito, San Mateo, Siskiyou, Solano and Yolo counties all received “C” grades, while Marin and San Francisco counties received “B” grades.
Santa Barbara was the only county to receive a “D” grade.
There was no data available for Alpine, Del Norte, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Plumas, Sierra, Trinity and Yuba counties, according to the report.
To view the report, visit tinyurl.com/SJCAir2022.
On the heels of the State of the Air report, the Valley Air District announced this week that it will launch a new program to establish a network of clean air centers in an effort to protect Californians during wildfire season.
The district will launch the Clean Air Centers Pilot program on May 1, which will allocate $750,000 to provide portable air cleaners at schools, community centers, senior centers, sport centers, libraries and other publicly accessible buildings that could serve as clean air centers and protect vulnerable populations during wildfire smoke events.
The $750,000 is made possible through grant funding established by AB 836, the Wildfire Smoke Clean Air Centers for Vulnerable Populations Incentive Pilot Program.
“The Clean Air Centers Pilot Program will serve as the next key component in protecting Valley residents in the most vulnerable communities,” district air pollution control officer Samir Sheikh said in a media statement Wednesday.
“This program will help to create a network of accessible facilities to find respite from the damaging effects of smoke events for communities that are the most vulnerable and face the greatest challenges in protecting themselves during wildfire events,” he added.
The district and other public health agencies throughout the Central Valley recommend residents take health-protective actions to stay safe when smoke from catastrophic wildfires affects the region.
Actions include staying indoors, using portable air cleaners or high efficiency filters to remove fine particles from the air, creating a “clean room,” and finding a more protective location if you are unable to use fans and air conditioning in your home.
For more information on this and other Valley Air District grant programs, visit www.valleyair.org/grants, or call 559-230-5800.