The American Lung Association ranked San Diego County’s air quality sixth-worst in the nation for ozone pollution from 2014 to 2016, and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) ranked San Diego’s air quality in the worst one percent for particulate matter pollution between 2011 and 2013.
High levels of ozone cause smoggy air. The American Lung Association advises limited exposure to outdoor exertion when it reports smoggy air days. While there was a reported decrease in smoggy air days in the San Diego area from 1998 (95 days) to 2014 (26 days), the American Lung Association found that between 2014 and 2016, the number of smoggy air days in the San Diego area increased by 42 percent to 37 days.
Ozone contributes to a variety of negative health and environmental effects, including lung diseases, ecosystem damage, and property damage. For healthy air, the American Thoracic Society (ATS) recommends that ozone levels remain below 0.060 particles per million (ppm), but it reported that many areas in Southern California exede 0.081 ppm and, when averaged, all of the counties in Southern California exceed 0.071 ppm.
In addition to ozone, many other air pollutants contribute to health repercussions, including small particles suspended in the air referred to as particulate matter. PM2.5, one category of particulate matter, contributes to health concerns such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and asthma-related emergencies.
ATS reports that ozone and PM2.5 accounted for 132 deaths in the San Diego (Carlsbad) area between 2011–2013.
“While a number of air pollutants are associated with…mortality or morbidity, […] PM2.5 is the air pollutant that has been most closely studied and is most commonly used as proxy indicator of exposure to air pollution,” reported the World Health Organization.
The California Office of Community Air Protection is working on the Community Air Protection Program, as set forth by Assembly Bill (AB) 617, to address air pollution at the community level. The Program aims to establish community air monitoring and local emissions reduction programs, specifically in disadvantaged communities. Currently, San Diego County Air Pollution Control District recommended the Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, West National City, San Ysidro, and Otay Mesa communities for consideration.
AB 617 requires that the state board selects communities and develops action plans for air quality monitoring systems in these communities by October 1, 2018. These action plans and monitoring systems must be established by July 1, 2019.
To monitor air pollution forecasts in an area, you can visit airnow.gov. To receive notifications about potentially hazardous air quality, download the American Lung Association’s State of the Air app on iOS or Android.
Mick Mattie is a Contributing Writer for The Triton. You can follow him at @Mick_Mattie.