San Luis Obispo County fails air pollution test

April 28, 2011

San Luis Obispo County has some of the most polluted air in the country along with high incidents of breathing problems, according to the American Lung Association’s annual report.

The association slapped San Luis Obispo County with an F for having had 69 days per year when the air quality was poor enough to be flagged a red or an orange day. The report notes that ozone pollution can shorten life spans, trigger asthma attacks and increase cardiovascular problems for diabetics.

In the county of 266,971 residents, 34,719 people suffer from asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema.

The San Luis Obispo Paso Robles area was ranked 11 on the most ozone polluted list with Los Angeles ranked number one.

On a positive note, the association ranked San Luis Obispo County number one  for having the lowest levels of particle pollution levels in the country.

“Ozone and particle pollution levels today still contribute to thousands of hospitalizations, emergency room visits and early deaths every year,” says Dr. Sonal Patel, volunteer physician for the American Lung Association in California. “We know that air pollution can literally stunt children’s lung development.”

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I’m so far not finding records of which days our ozone levels were high. But I did find the following:

“The San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles metropolitan area was added to the list of top-ten cities in the nation most polluted by ozone pollution in 2010. The high ozone levels that were recorded by two new monitors placed in 2006 in eastern San Luis Obispo County were the key reason for San Luis Obispo’s new ranking. These monitors were specifically placed in high elevation areas in the eastern part of the county to assess transport into the county. While San Luis Obispo County has local sources of pollution, these monitors demonstrate there is also substantial transport of pollution generated elsewhere in the State that significantly influences Central Coast air quality.”

A friend outside of Shandon has been telling me this for years, and where he lives he is very aware of the air movement from the valley. According to this friend, whenever the onshore winds are blowing strong sown the Salinas Valley, the funky stuff from the Central Valley moves in, westward towards Paso.

Camp Roberts had controlled fires that had smoke in the air almost the entire month of June. Then we had smoke from other fires off and on in Paso during the summer. Could this be part of the problem? It certainly is a problem for people with breathing conditions.

North County air pollution conditions are a major result of ‘transport’ and the reason for the initiation of the air quality flag system first placed at the Carrisa Plains elementary school, compliments of the San Joaquin County polluted air quality.