"Perfect storm of pollution" puts Valley in danger

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Doctors said there?s a perfect storm of pollution in this heat wave, but you can keep track of the danger from the comfort of home. (KFSN)

Doctors said there's a perfect storm of pollution in this heat wave, but you can keep track of the danger from the comfort of home.

The view from a downtown Fresno overpass was a little murky Thursday evening, and it was worse than it was just a few hours ago. It was a little hard to breathe too, and doctors say there are three factors contributing to the bad air.

The valley's summer heat usually delivers a pollution punch from ozone. The winter brings particulate matter. But this week, we're seeing both.

"Now we have the perfect storm of both because with forest fires we have a lot more particulate matter in the air and it blows in even from the coast to the valley and hangs here, especially when we have a breezeless day like this," said Dr. John Gasman, a pulmonologist from Kaiser Permanente.

The lack of wind means a red flag hangs limply beneath the red, white and blue at the Fresno Kaiser medical center. It would warn of unhealthy air if it could.

The combination of ozone and particulate matter is especially dangerous for children, older people, asthmatics, and people with heart or lung problems. We breathe both pollutants directly into our lungs and then our bloodstream.

"So that'll lead to swelling in the airways, more mucus production, so it'll trigger asthma attacks," Dr. Gasman said. "It'll trigger chronic obstructive lung disease attacks."

That usually means more emergency room visits, more heart attacks, and more strokes.

Like the almost invisible flag, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is warning people about the health risks. It forecasted unhealthy air quality for a few valley counties Thursday. And it updates the situation every hour on its real-time air advisory network -- or RAAN.

"RAAN does your specific city or your specific location so it's more health protective and it's a little more accurate because it gives you exact data," said Cassandra Melching with the SJVAPCD.

You can access the real-time data on your phone-- on the Valley Air District website or by downloading their app.
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