youtube videoAir Quality Index (AQI) - What It Means For You
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California's air quality is worse than India's. That's not good san jose ca air quality now a pandemic
SAN FRANCISCO – Kevin Galvin, a water conservation administrator who lives in the Oakland foothills, woke up Monday morning to “dry, smoky air with ash in it,” and the house smelled like the site of a campfire.
Millions of his fellow Californians were breathing in that same harmful air.
The hundreds of wildfires ravaging the state, especially the northern and central parts, have badly deteriorated the air quality over large swaths when residents are already at a high risk of pulmonary disease because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Most, if not all, major urban areas in California have been affected by poor air over the past week," the California Air Resources Board told USA TODAY, and the highest level of PM2.5 – fine particles that can reach deep into the lungs – were registered in Santa Cruz County and the Monterey Bay region.
As of 2:30 p.m. PDT Monday, about one-third of the Golden State was deemed to have air unhealthy for all members of the general public, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index. That assessment included highly populated spots such as the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno and the capital city of Sacramento.
At times during the past few days, parts of the Bay Area have been blanketed by a thin layer of ash while enduring the worst air quality in the world. According to purpleair.com, Monday afternoon’s rating of 548 west of San Jose was three times higher than the closest global figure.
“The concentration of the tiny particles (PM2.5) in the Bay Area is roughly five times the daily average limit set by the EPA. It's worse in the Bay Area now than mega cities like New Delhi, which are known for poor air quality,” said Coty Jen, assistant professor at the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies at Carnegie Mellon University. “Even healthy people are reporting headaches, bloody noses, etc., during this current smoke event.”
Finally, a break: Massive wildfires scorch California, but humidity helps keep feared lightning at bay for now
The EPA calculates a daily Air Quality Index based on five major pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Fine particles present the most serious health threat, according to the AirNow.gov website.
“These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into your lungs,” the website says. “They can cause a range of health problems, from burning eyes and runny nose to aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases. Exposure to particle pollution is even linked to premature death.”
The EPA warns that surgical and cloth masks and bandannas, often used to prevent spread of the coronavirus, don’t protect against smoke inhalation. Higher-grade N-95 masks do to a large extent, but they’re in short supply and mostly reserved for medical workers.
The Air Resources Board advises people in the affected areas to stay inside with their windows and doors shut, run air conditioners in the recirculate setting and keep track of conditions.
Galvin said he and his wife restrict outside exposure for themselves and their 9-year-old daughter, Emmy, which has downsides.
“We’re letting her go out with us on dog walks and to try to get some sunshine,” he said, “but we’re trying to limit her outdoor time a bit, and that’s kind of resulting in more screen time.”
Of course, the adverse effects of the smoky air go well beyond prompting too much time in front gpa requirements for south carolina state university a computer. California has registered nearly 673,000 of the 5.7 million cases of COVID-19 in the USA, which leads the world by far in that category.
The prevalence of smoke only makes residents more vulnerable to the highly contagious disease, said Dr. John Watson, an expert on air quality measurements and the impact of air pollutants at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada.
“Anecdotally, what you’re seeing is people’s systems are becoming more sensitive to (the coronavirus),” Watson said. “They’re going to be more prone to have more damage. Just the smoke alone induces a lot of asthma, bronchitis, COPDs (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), so it gives a lot of acute effects that take place right away. That’s just going to weaken the whole system. You’re going to be more susceptible to any other disease just because your system is already overtaxed.”
A red alert prompted by forecasts of lightning strikes – a rare occurrence in Northern California that sparked the spate of wildfires a week ago – was called off Monday. That led to a major sigh of relief for the battered area, where overwhelmed and undermanned firefighters have battled the blazes nonstop.
The break figures to be only temporary, considering this is just the midpoint of the increasingly long fire season.
“Poor air quality, particularly during wildfire season, is one of the most important environmental issues facing the state of California,” said Aaron Harrison, a teaching and research fellow in atmospheric chemistry at Chapman University. “While poor air quality is always a concern for vulnerable respiratory populations in the state, the air quality can become so bad during wildfire season that it poses a significant risk of negative health effects to anyone exposed to it.”
Fallout from Camp Fire: Air quality in Bay Area at dangerous levels
Residents of San Francisco and surrounding cities woke to inhale terrible air on Friday, choking on smoke from the deadly Camp Fire more than 150 miles away, officials said.
The Air Quality Index, a measure of dangerous smoke and exhaust particulates in the air, reached 246 in Oakland and 239 in San Francisco by late Friday afternoon, well into the zone of “very unhealthy.”
Those AQI measurements from San Francisco and Oakland on Friday are the worst in the 20 years of their recorded air-quality history, according to Kristine Roselius, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
An AQI reading of 35 to 70 should force most people to consider staying indoors. An AQI of 150 is considered "unhealthy" and 200 "very unhealthy."
"Once you get to 150, that's mask-wearing stuff," said Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, the state agencies that measure pollution.
The damaging particulates measured by AQI are so small, they can get past a human being's natural filters and infiltrate the lungs, possibly causing long-term heart and breathing issues, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
These poor conditions even forced postponement of Saturday's "Big Game," the annual football meeting between arch rivals UC-Berkeley and Stanford. The game has been rescheduled for Dec. 1 at Cal Memorial Stadium.
Cal Athletic Director Jim Knowlton said in a prepared statement that, "we made the decision to postpone for the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, gameday staff, students, band and spirit groups, alumni and fans."
Officials at major Bay Area hospitals like San Francisco General Hospital and UCSF and Oakland Medical Centers said Friday they hadn't seen an immediate boost in patients suffering breathing issues. But they urged Bay Area residents to stay indoors in possible.
"It's unbreathable when you're walking outside," said Kristen Bole, a spokeswoman for UCSF Medical Center. "We're walking around with masks right now."
San Francisco General Hospital spokesman Brent Andrew said the city is like a ghost town.
"Everyone is staying indoors and the people who are outside are wearing masks of one kind of another. It’s totally weird to see. Homes for sale in kennebec county maine is a creepy feeling."
Even though millions of Bay Area residents are playing it safe, Dr. John Balmes — a pulmonary specialist and air pollution researcher — said he fears this unhealthy air will lead to premature deaths of some elderly and other at-risk people.
“We’ll find out in the future, but based on what we know about air pollution, we would expect to see this level to be associated with a rise in cardiopulmonary mortality," said Balmes, who teaches at UC-Berkeley and UCSF and practices at San Francisco General.
"There will be a significant spike," he said.
While the Camp Fire, which has been burning for more than a week and is the deadliest fire in san jose ca air quality now history, seems so far away from the Bay Area, strong gusts are bringing fallout of the deadly blaze to their doorstep.
“The problem is the winds are blowing the smoke south, it’s like a conveyor belt straight to the Bay Area,” play jumpstart 1st grade Young.
Education officials across the Bay Area saw the bad air coming on Thursday night and canceled Friday classes throughout the region.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has banned burning wood until at least Tuesday of next week.
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
It's a little bit smoky around the Bay Area today: Here's why
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District pulls its readings from sensors monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency that generally give lower readings than Purple Air, and its map shows nearly the entire Bay Area in the moderate range.
The concentration of pollution in the air is measured using the Air Quality Index, which operates on a scale from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. An AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, over 150 is unhealthy, over 200 is very unhealthy and over 300 signals hazardous conditions.
Why wasn't the Bay Area in the "healthy" green category Thursday? The Bay Area is seeing "slight influence from the Creek Fire in Fresno County," said Aaron Richardson, a spokesperson with the air quality district.
The Creek Fire has scorched 379,571 acres since it first ignited on Sept. 4. The blaze was 70% contained as of Thursday morning and full containment is expected by Oct. 31.
Smoke from the blaze is being blown from the Sierra toward the coast by prevailing easterly offshore winds. Without a strong sea breeze at the coast, the smoke is lingering over the Bay Area, with a brown haze visible across the San Francisco skyline Thursday morning.
A light ocean breeze is forecast to pick up Thursday afternoon, but will only be strong enough to possibly push some of the smoke from the coast toward the East Bay.
"Onshore winds are going to be very light," said David King, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. "It doesn't look like we'll have a strong return of the onshore winds in the short term. Lucky enough there are not high concentrations of smoke in the atmosphere."
In other words, smoke from the Creek Fire could continue to linger this week, but extreme smoke conditions that make being outdoors dangerous for healthy individuals aren't expected.