Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

UC Davis uses Fresno air to study most toxic particles

Not all pollution particles are created equally bad for you. The ones from cars, trucks, fireplaces and cooking are probably getting the worst reactions from your body.

Two University of California scientists came to the conclusion after collecting air samples from Fresno in summer 2008 and winter 2009, identifying the particles in the samples and allowing laboratory mice to inhale them.

Murky air in downtown Fresno

The approach is the first of its kind, according to the UC Davis scientists, Anthony Wexler and Kent Pinkerton. Wexler is the director of the Air quality Research Center at Davis. Pinkerton is professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine.

Their work on this study will help regulators in the future as they tighten standards to protect human health.

“Right now, air-quality standards are based on the mass of the particulate matter and don’t distinguish between natural sources, like sea spray, and known toxic sources, like diesel exhaust,” said Wexler, who led the study.

The bottom line: New standards some day might be aimed at certain types of particles, instead of all particles. It would save money for industries in the cleanup.

The study was funded by the California Air Resources Board and the Electric Power Research Institute.

Lawmakers want to fix bureaucratic funding maze for clean water

Small, impoverished towns are sometimes left for years with tainted drinking water while they wade through a cryptic state process for public funding to fix the problem.

Two frustrated lawmakers this week will start a streamlining effort that probably will result in several new bills next year.  The lawmakers are Assemlymembers Henry T. Perea, D- Fresno, and Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville.

“We’re getting pretty fed up,” said Perea, who has worked for funding in such Tulare County towns as Seville, Monson, Cutler and Orosi. “We might want to consolidate this process under different agencies.”

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Sacramento, Alejo and Perea will convene an oversight hearing of the Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee to take testimony from more than a dozen people. If you want to follow it live, go here.

Thomas Harter, a University of California at Davis researcher, will briefly discuss his landmark research released this year on nitrates, the most widely found contaminant. It comes from fertilizer, animal waste, septic systems, sewage treatment plants and decaying vegetation.

The contaminant threatens the drinking water for more than a quarter of a million people in the Valley, according to Harter’s research.

Yet in places like Seville, which was featured last year in a Fresno Bee series of stories on drinking water problems in rural towns, it has taken years just to secure funding to study a fix.

This week, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors was expected to approve a $690,000 grant to study the best ways to fix Seville’s problem. The study money has been years in the making and there have been bureaucratic snags along the way, as The Bee reported last year.

Even with the study money in hand, it probably will take more than a year to get started on a fix for the town’s crumbling water system.