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.