Polluted air will increase deaths in Calif.
Polluted air will increase deaths in California every year, California’s notoriety as one of the country’s most dangerous states takes on new meaning as the coronavirus is becoming more deadly for people living in polluted soil.
The American Lung Association’s “Safety of the Air” report, released Tuesday, reveals that the top metro areas in the United States are all in California for year-round particle pollution. Which include the Central Valley centers of Bakersfield, Fresno and Visalia, the Los Angeles area and the Bay Area. Many people have been exposed to unhealthy particulate levels in the state recently, the
Particle pollution from factories, highways and forest fires, which includes dust, dirt and smoke, can lodge in people’s lungs and cause asthma, lung disease and even heart attacks. In addition, a recent Harvard University study found that PM 2.5 — particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or smaller — is related to higher mortality rates for COVID-19.
Air pollution exposure affects the immune system’s ability to react appropriately,” said Mary Prunicki, director of air quality and health studies at Stanford University’s Allergy and Asthma Research Centre. She has been collaborating with the American Lung Association and researching how polluted air makes people vulnerable to viruses. “This coronavirus is no different, it’s a logical conclusion.” Air pollution isn’t new to California. The huge population of the state and vast manufacturing and transportation industries combined long with mountains and mild, dry weather to trap airborne contaminants in rural and urban areas.
The “State of the Climate” study, based on the country’s most recent available data on air quality — from 2016, 2017 and 2018 — shows that polluted air will increase deaths in Calif. ,the nation-leading rates of annual particulate pollution in California are not much different from previous years. Many metro areas in the state, however, experienced more single days of unhealthy particulates than in the past, largely due to recent wildfires, Including blazes in Wine Country and Camp Fire in Butte County.
San Francisco had 9.2 days of toxic particulate emissions, Alameda County had 11.2 days and Contra Costa County had 11 days — all extremely long stretches and not above the 99th percentile for contamination within the appropriate nine days or fewer, as measured by the American Lung Association. At 37.8 days of high particulate matter, Fresno County has top the list.
“The wildfires we had in 2017 and 2018 demonstrated clearly how bad air quality can be,” said John Balmes, a medicine professor at UCSF and a member of the California Air Resources Board who also works with the American Lung Association. “But we have poor air on days other than wildfires.” Since the federal Clean Air Act was passed half a century ago, California, like much of the country, has made strides in combating pollution. Progress however appears to stall in many ways. The drive by the Trump administration to relax restrictions on air quality has not helped. The Environmental Protection Agency just last week declined demands from health experts to tighten the particulate matter requirements.
Apart from particulate pollution, the “State of the Air” report reveals that ozone, or smog, has remained problematic since the previous survey, and it’s much worse in California. In the United States, the urban areas with the highest smog are Los Angeles, Visalia (Tulare County), Bakersfield, Fresno and Sacramento. The Bay Area was the country’s eighth-most smoggy area.
Most smog at ground level is the product of emissions coming from vehicles and trucks and communicating with the sunlight. It is an problem that is proving to be more complex as the environment warms.
The study found that 150 million Americans live in counties that have either experienced unhealthy ozone or particulate emission levels, around 46 percent of the population. That represents an increase in the American Lung Association’s last three annual reports. This year’s Report is the company’s 21st.
“As a doctor, this is intolerable,” Balmes said, adding that “nearly every” Californian lives in a county that has had some sort of bad air or something else.
The Harvard report found earlier this month that only small increases in PM 2.5 — 1 microgram per cubic meter — were linked to a 15 per cent rise in coronavirus deaths. The researchers came to their conclusion by evaluating particle concentrations in over 3,000 U.S. counties respectively and the number of COVID-19 deaths.
The report is yet to be peer-reviewed, but the researchers have already cautioned that areas with elevated particulate matter rates may see a greater pandemic fallout. We have advocated tighter control of air quality.
“We can’t go back and clean up the air of the past,” said in a statement Francesca Dominici, a professor at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Harvard who led the study. “But in the future, we will try and make sure that we take mitigation steps in heavily contaminated counties so that the disease will not kill as many people.”
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