Recent research shows that air pollution in California’s Central Valley has reached particularly dangerous levels. Fresno and Los Angeles are under an especially thick cloud of pollution, that actually looks like fog but is far more harmful.
The Central Valley is not known for its stellar air quality, but recent factors, including the Santa Barbara wildfires, and high air pressure, have led to an increase in larger particles polluting the air. These 2.5 micron particles, while 30 times tinier than the width of a human hair, are quite large in terms of airborne polluting agents, and can act as severe irritants for the human respiratory system. People suffering from asthma and COPD are especially at risk, and medical professionals are recommending wearing N-95 masks, which filter out these particles 95% of the time.
Even for people who don’t normally experience breathing problems, this level of pollution can be an indirect threat. New research shows that breathing in particles as large as 2.5 microns can wreak havoc on breathing tubes in the lungs, and greatly increase risk of catching influenza and other illnesses.
Airborne irritants come mostly from truck and automobile exhaust fumes, but are usually blown away by the wind before they can accumulate to such dangerous levels. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District reports a powerful high-pressure system preventing normal air movement in the Central Valley. This has brought pollution levels to over 160 microns per cubic liter of air, over 4 times the maximum safety level.
Experts state that the only things that could alleviate the current situation would be a shift in atmospheric conditions, or a healthy downpour. California could definitely benefit from some rain, regardless of the levels of pollution. Hoping for the best, and avoiding unnecessary exposure to outside air are the wisest things to do at the moment.