Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Valley has briefly had Beijing-type siege

Beijing’s pollution this week was a lung-corroding 25 times worse than the federal threshold in the United States. Has the San Joaquin Valley ever seen levels that high?

Yes, but only for a few hours at a time once every few years. It happens after fireworks celebrations on the Fourth of July.

We’re talking about dangerous tiny particle pollution or PM-2.5. To explain the problem in China, it’s best use a quick comparison.

The U.S. standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The U.S. Embassy has recently reported an astounding 886 micrograms in Beijing. Schools there kept children indoors. Hospitals saw a 20% jump in patients with respiratory problems.

Back to the San Joaquin Valley.

On July 4, 2007, in Bakersfield, a monitor recorded 1,000 micrograms between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. For the next two hours, it remained near that level.

That’s scary, considering medical researchers have long said the U.S. standard is too lenient at 35 micrograms.

What happens on the Fourth of July? The sky is showered with smoke and metals such as magnesium, copper and barium. The metals cause a range of problems, including skin irritations, muscle weakness and confusion in people with kidney problems. PM-2.5 is linked to lung and heart disease as well as early mortality.

But the Valley’s problem, which among the worst in the nation, bears little resemblance to the air emergency in China.

Responses

8TM says:

PM 2.5 can be seen with the naked eye, in fact, it is the reason that Tower is just a hazy silhouette in the accompanying photo. (I realize you refer to individual particles) The New York Times reported that even the“interior of the gleaming Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital International Airport was filled with a thick haze on Thursday.”
And you see PM 2.5 issuing from your neighbor’s chimney. And if you do and it’s no-burn day as today is, you can help our air (and yourself and your neighbor) by reporting it to the Air District. (800) 870-1037.

JT says:

I still cough and sneeze for at least an hour every day that I wake up to a Valley winter. And just who is enforcing the no-burn rules? Lots of violators in the Fresno area. Maybe the same folks who ignore the watering restrictions.

8TM says:

If you yourself don’t report the infractions you observe, chances are they’ll continue. I think the Air District has only one or two inspectors for each county, so you may have to report more than once. Or twice. What they ought to do is pay bounty for verifiable evidence of scofflaw burning if they’re ever to get decent compliance, which—judging form the rise in PM2.5’s most every evening and the odor of wood smoke throughout the city—we’re a long way from getting.

Stephen A. Montgomery says:

Yea! The Chinese don’t have to worry about those pesky “tree hugging” environmentalists backing those “job killing” regulations that that hurt corporate profits!

8TM says:

Mark, have you noticed there’s now a PM 2.5 monitor operating at Fresno-Drummond? The data just started appearing some time in the past few days, but it goes back to January 1st. RAAN doesn’t have it yet.

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