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Record air pollution hammers California's agriculture heartland.

air pollution health

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#1 E3 wise

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 10:28 AM

Reported by msn January 7, 2012

Nearly every day in December and January, dirty air has exceeded federal health standards.

FRESNO, Calif. — This is the time of year when residents who often live with the nation's worst pollution often can draw a breath of fresh air. But this winter has not been kind to people who want to play outside in California's Central Valley.

  A dry December and January has stagnated air across California, but nowhere is the situation more serious than between Modesto and Bakersfield, where nearly every day dirty air has exceeded federal health standards.

  It's the worst air quality recorded in a dozen years, and it's the unhealthiest kind— microscopic, chemical-laden particles that can get into lungs and absorbed into the bloodstream to create health risks in everyone, not just the young and infirm.

   The southern San Joaquin half of the valley stretches 200 miles from Stockton to Bakersfield and is home to 4 million people. It traditionally records the highest level of particulate matter and ozone pollution in the United States and has a rate of asthma three times the national average, according to the American Lung Association.

   Air quality advocates have argued for years that the local air district's focus on fireplace burn bans ignores other major sources of industrial pollution, such as dairies, feed lots and oil rigs. "The air board's strategy is failing," said Kevin Hall, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition.

   The Bay Area is also experiencing its worst air pollution in years. Winter "Spare the Air" days, where air quality is deemed to be unhealthy, have been called 12 times since Nov. 1, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Air officials say their policies are sound, but there is little they can do with La Nina conditions in the Pacific creating stagnant air.

   Fighting air pollution in the Central Valley is a task that so far has not succeeded in meeting federal health standards. Surrounded on three sides by mountains, the valley opens in the north toward San Francisco and Sacramento, where weather patterns suck emissions south.

   Cutting through the valley are the state's two main north-south highway corridors, the routes for nearly all long-distance tractor trailer rigs, the No. 2 source of particulate pollution in the valley. Also in the mix are millions of acres of plowed farmland and 1.6 million dairy cows and the flatulence and ammonia-laden manure they create.

  Without wind and rain, the air sits, trapped as if in a pot with a lid.

  Since 2003, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has targeted fireplace soot as biggest source that is easiest to end and calls "no burn days" based on weather forecasts.
US tweets get Beijing to cough up smog data.

Fires were banned on nearly every day in December, including Christmas Eve and New Year's, and the 60 people who patrol neighborhoods writing citations to offenders have been busy. Violations doubled in some areas and were up to five times higher in others last month as the district cracked down during unseasonably cold weather.

   "When we have weather conditions like this, there is nothing we can do really to meet the federal standards," said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the district. "Even if we shut down I-5 and (U.S. Highway) 99 and shut businesses we would still violate the standard because there's no dispersion.
The best we can do is to minimize the damage, and the best way to do that is with the fireplace rule."

  The struggle with particulate pollution comes after the district failed during the summer months, despite a publicity campaign, to keep ozone emissions under EPA limits to avoid ongoing federal fines.

Warnings about the potential adverse health effects of air pollution become a year-round event in the valley. And those warnings are about to start coming more furiously. This week district officials lowered by nearly half the level of pollution they say is safe for outdoor activities.

  The air district helped fund a study of 1 million residents in 2011 that found that emergency room visits for asthma and heart attacks went up when particulate pollution went up. That convinced officials that the federal government's standard, which relied on a 24-hour average of air quality, was too high. Small particulates in the bloodstream can break off plaque in the coronary artery, creating a logjam and a heart attack.

  "The old level may work for Beijing, China, but we need to bring it down to where it really belongs," said David Lighthall, the district's health science adviser. "We are recognizing that the air quality is different from one time of day to another and we're trying to give people the information they need to make decisions about outdoor exercise."

   The district sends advisories to schools and those signed up for email alerts, called "Real Time Outdoor Activity Risk" warnings, whenever the air reaches the "unhealthy" level so that teachers know whether to call off recess and residents can decide to postpone a jog or a bike ride. On Friday morning, for instance, some Fresno residents received an email alert at 10 a.m. working that the air was "Level 5 Very Unhealthy" for everyone, indicating the highest levels of pollution.

"We can give people a tool, whether an athlete or school manager, and ensure they do stay indoors at particular times when air quality is threatening, and also find out when a better time to go out would be," Lighthall said.

Just before Christmas, the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment sued the U.S. EPA on behalf of Central Valley residents alleging it has not pressed California for a viable, enforceable plan to improve air quality.

  "We are going to need far tighter rules coming out of the air district if we are really going to make progress in meeting federal standards," said Tom Franz of the Bakersfield-based Association of Irritated Residents, one of the groups suing.

   Air pollution officials say the technology doesn't yet exist to lessen the valley's pollution and bring the region into compliance, though the district is investing in research and giving grants for things such as the new generation of battery powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers.

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#2 jasserEnv



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Posted 15 January 2012 - 11:39 AM

That sure puts a damper to the tourist ads targeting California and means a lot of people are at risk from all the health effects of air pollution. I can't imagine what the costs will be to health care systems and individuals as a result of constantly breathing this muck. This type of particulate pollution causes system inflammation that can lead to heart disease and cancers so it is really bad stuff for the body.

#3 still learning

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Posted 16 January 2012 - 08:13 PM

If you are a visitor to California, likely you won't be exposed.
There isn't anywhere in the San Joaquin Valley that is a tourist destination.  You would cross Great Valley to get from coastal California, from either the San Francisco area or the Los Angeles area, to the Sierra Nevada, otherwise a visitor likely wouldn't go there.

#4 joeldgreat



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Posted 08 February 2012 - 11:40 PM

The report is released one month ago. If they will do the same test again today, I'm sure the record will be broken. Its because, we are putting too much in our environment and does not give our way for our invironment to recover. Everyday, tons on polluted air is being dump to our sorroundings, tons of garbage is left in dumpsite which eventually creates methane gas which is harmful, etc.etc.. But little is being done to protect it againts these elements.

#5 artistry



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Posted 10 February 2012 - 03:36 PM

This is one very distressing and depressing report.  Industries are creating the muck, that is immovable, if the inspectors would try controlling some of their output, perhaps the air quality would be better.  I think I mentioned the population eventually having to wear gas masks, in one of my comments some time ago. I was thinking of face masks and wrote gas masks instead. Maybe it was a freudian slip?  Giant vacuums might be a good invention, to pull some of the garbage out of the atmosphere. Cheers.

#6 E3 wise

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 05:57 PM

Ok guys I posted this story from an MSN story January 7th 2012.  I want to agree with what you guys are saying about the problems with air pollution in California.  This given, California began the measurements of pollution before the federal government ever started keeping track of these pollutants.

California’s air quality measures started the nationwide outcry that brought about the Clean Air Act of 1972.  The state has led the nation in identifying and classifying additional pollutants for transportation, manufactures and refining.  These businesses, especially the car companies and refining have tied up California in hundreds of cases of litigation to try to block or slowdown the process.  Yet California has kept fighting and eventually won most of the clean air standards cases until 2007 & 2008.  

Case and point we would not have the electric car today or Fuel Cell cars soon, had it not been for them establishing guidelines for low emission cars by 2020.

  That said there are two big biggest problem in the central valley #1 the region’s agriculture is responsible for much of the region’s pollution. Up until a few years ago, farmers in the region would regularly burn brush and cuttings at the end of the season, creating huge sources of particulate matter in the air. A new state law, enforced since 2004, regulates the emissions of the agriculture industry in the state, and Holt says the Valley’s pollution problems have already started to decline. In 2002, more than 4,600 tons of 2.5-microgram particulate matter was recorded. In 2008, that figure was down to 1,600 tons.

#2 There are two large refineries in the Central Valley, Big West (Bakersfield) and Kern Oil and Refining Company (Bakersfield) that have fought tooth and nail with millions of dollars to stall and delay implementation of air quality standards, why- cause that’s what they do- start a lawsuit, get a injunction to continue current practices until case is ruled on, then delay, delay, delay, appeal, delay some more, appeal and so on and 15 years go by.

Meanwhile tax payers fit the bill for the litigation and have to suffer the health risks while they wait.  Yes the population, number of cars, and location with three mountain ranges around the valley all contribute greatly, but if the large agriculture and refining would just adopt the standards that would cut the emissions by ¾ as per the California State Air Quality board.

The problem is getting better, but it’s by no means solved. As agricultural burn-offs continue to decrease, the Valley can expect to see its air quality improve. But regardless of the value of those improvements until the refineries are brought into compliance the central valley’s geography and meteorology distinctly disadvantage it to suffer below average air quality.

#7 Shortpoet-GTD



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Posted 11 February 2012 - 09:29 AM

Another pollution problem California is facing? Waste water pollution thanks to Shell Oil. :angry:

"State legislators killed a bill that would have closed a loophole used by businesses to evade pollution lawsuits.
Sponsored by Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Long Beach, AB 1207 arose out of a lawsuit in Carson, where residents discovered in 2009 that for nearly five decades, their families have been exposed to dangerous levels of cancer-causing toxins emanating from their properties.
However, Shell Oil Co. and a local developer were able to initially get the resident lawsuit thrown out by claiming
the state's 10-year time limit on "construction defect" claims had expired.
Three years ago, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control unearthed evidence of Carson's pollution
while investigating another case. Subsequent investigations by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board
have found alarming levels of cancer-causing benzene and explosive methane gas throughout the Carson neighborhood.

Shell Oil, which owned and used the land for drilling and dumping waste, sold the property in the 1960s but didn't
remove the toxins before the sale. The water quality board has issued an advisory urging residents to avoid physical
contact with the soil in their yards and has ordered Shell Oil to clean up the properties."


#8 Shortpoet-GTD



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Posted 11 February 2012 - 09:36 AM

View Poststill learning, on 16 January 2012 - 08:13 PM, said:

If you are a visitor to California, likely you won't be exposed.
There isn't anywhere in the San Joaquin Valley that is a tourist destination.  You would cross Great Valley to get from coastal California, from either the San Francisco area or the Los Angeles area, to the Sierra Nevada, otherwise a visitor likely wouldn't go there.
You bet. The air is so clean there, they put it in tanks and ship it elsewhere, so everyone can benefit. <_<
(yeah right) :tongue:

#9 E3 wise

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 11:54 AM

you so crazzzzzzy.

#10 Shortpoet-GTD



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Posted 12 February 2012 - 02:53 AM

View PostE3 wise, on 11 February 2012 - 11:54 AM, said:

you so crazzzzzzy.
:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

#11 steph84



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Posted 14 March 2012 - 12:27 AM

Oh, Bakersfield. That area is just a hot zone for health issues. So many of their residents have cancer! It's quite scary and one of my aunts wanted to move there for their affordable homes. Yikes. I live in Los Angeles and whenever my friends from NY visit they say that their chests hurt. I can't wait to move!

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