Study Co-Author, Public Health Professor Dr. John Capitman told Action News: "This study shows that as the air gets worse more kids are going to end up in the hospital or the emergency room we're also finding more adults are at risk for a heart attack and other risks."
The biggest finding was that exposure to ozone and small particles of pollution, called PM 2.5 sends more than 18 hundred children to the emergency rooms in Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield every year. The study shows emergency room visits rose even when pollution levels were considered Moderate. Significant increases in heart attacks were also noted during bad air episodes. David Lighthall, a scientific advisor to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says pollutions impact on health is clear.
"This study certainly shows us that the health effects from all these fine particles and the chemicals contained in those particles are having an effect. It may not affect you but it is affecting somebody in your neighborhood."
Lighthall told Action News more efforts to clean the air, with further restrictions on wood burning and the lawn care industry are expected. While opponents may argue new rules will cost money and hurt the economy, health advocate Kevin Hamilton, of Clinica Sierra Vista said: "Which part of the economy are we talking about? When somebody gets sick and goes to the emergency room their economy is hurt tremendously."
The study was the topic of a conference at the Health Policy Institute and its supporters say it's a wakeup call to the impact of air pollution on our health.
The study notes that Central Valley cities are exceeding the federal particulate pollution limit 30 to 40 percent of the time. It concludes that just getting down to the federal limit would save not only hospital visits, but hundreds of lives cut short due to asthma and heart attacks every year.