Winter air pollution raises health worries

FRESNO, Calif.

Kevin Hall, Director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition believes the region has been hit hard by microscopic pollution, known as PM 2.5.

"We've been through the worst winter air pollution episode for fine particulates that anyone can remember. People are talking about it not being this bad since the 1980's and in terms of weather perhaps nothing like this in 50 years. so what this has led to is an unrelenting assault on our health. Fine particulates are perhaps the most deadly form of pollution."

Hall notes the daily levels of particulates have been in the unhealthy and very unhealthy categories for almost every hour of the day for weeks.

Fresno Allergist and Immunologist, Dr. William Ebbeling agrees our lungs and bodies have been under assault. "The dirty air is like a hot shower on a sunburn." He said.

The doctor notes it' not just people with asthma and bronchitis who are affected. The microscopic particles of chemicals and pollutants can enter the bloodstream and never leave.

"Logic says something impacting and staying in your body forever shouldn't be very good for it." He said.

Some researchers believe these particles, can attack the immune system and alter DNA. Ebbeling says studies have yet to determine the exact health impacts of these tiny particles. Hall doesn't believe the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District's board of directors is adequately addressing the danger.

"Our air board needs to do a lot more to warn people about these dangerous levels of air pollution."

Hall doesn't believe fireplace restrictions are enough.

"The emphasis of not lighting your chimney on those days is important, but it's the tip of the iceberg."

The pollution control district rates air pollution conditions with various color coded warnings.

Thanks to weekend winds the region moved out of the dangerous purple, red and orange conditions, back into the green, or good air quality. But that means, tomorrow is likely to be a " burn day" when the air district says it will be okay to light polluting fires again. That frustrates Dr. Ebbeling.

"To me it's silly that if we have a weather front that comes through and brings us back to green then to turn around and say, okay you can burn and fill it up and make it dirty again and we're not going to stop you until it's terribly dirty."

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