Tehama County receives F for air quality
Tehama County received an "F" for its air quality by the American Lung Association.
The group this week released its State of the Air 2012 report, reporting that ozone and particulate pollution are on the decline.
The Tehama County grade is based on several factors, including the number of unhealthy days each year. An orange day, for example, is viewed as unhealthy for sensitive groups such as seniors or those with asthma. Tehama County recorded 34 of those days in 2011, according to the American Lung Association report.
The county recorded one red — or unhealthy — day, but no purple (very unhealthy) days, the report states. There are also green (healthy), yellow (moderate) and maroon (hazardous) days in the index, but none are included in the report.
Air pollution control officials said anyone looking for broader perspective on air quality should look to the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association report.
Officials with the Air Pollution Control Officers group said its report has a more historical and broad perspective than the grade-point approach by the Lung Association.
"I think, first of all, our report gives the reader an overview of what has happened over the last few years," said Rick Martin, president of the Air Pollution Control Officers Association.
He said the American Lung Associationfocuses more on the specific problem days year-to-year.
"So while there may be some days where the air quality may be poor," Martin said, "overall, the air quality is improving."
The American Lung Association agrees.
It's report states that the annual levels of particle pollution have dropped by more than 21 percent since the 2004 report, and the number of days for short-term particle pollution shows a dramatic drop of more than 70 percent since the 2007 report.
However, it warns, there are still a lot of people who are at-risk because of the air they breath.
"This report shows that air pollution remains a serious health threat to too many Californians," Jane Warner, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association in California said in a statement.
"State of the Air 2012 shows that we're making real and steady progress in the fight for clean air, but unhealthy levels of air pollution still exist, putting the health of millions Californians at risk. Much still needs to be done, and now is not the time to stop progress."
The Lung Association credits the state's air quality policies such as the advanced pollution standards on cars and fuels and diesel emissions regulations.
California cities still dominate lists for the top 10 most polluted areas in the U.S. for ozone (smog) and short-term and annual particle pollution, the report states.
That means more people are at risk for asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death.
Nine of the top 10 cities in the nation for ozone pollution are in California, topped by the Los Angeles-Bakersfield-Riverside area.
Yuba City, bundled with Sacramento and Arden Arcade area, was listed as the sixth worst.
The Bakersfield-Delano area was the worst in the nation for short-term particle pollution, and California had six of the top 10, the report states.
Five of the top 10 cities in the country for annual particle pollution are in California, topped again by the Bakersfield-Delano area.
Agriculture is listed among the primary mobile emission sources that cause most of the air pollution in the state.
Those sources also include cars, diesel trucks and buses, locomotives, ships and construction equipment.
Oil refineries, manufacturing plants, and residential wood burning also are key sources of emissions, the report states.
"Ozone and particle pollution contribute to thousands of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and deaths every year," Dr. David Cooke, a lung surgeon at the University of California, Davis, Comprehensive Cancer Center and a volunteer physician for the American Lung Association in California, said in a statement.
"Air pollution can stunt the lung development of children, and cause health emergencies, especially for people suffering from chronic lung disease including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Both long-term and short-term exposures can result in serious health impacts. Cleaner air can save lives and can lead to better lives for our children."
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that cutting air pollution through the Clean Air Act will prevent at least 230,000 deaths and save $2 trillion annually by 2020.
The Lung Association is concerned the Clean Air Act is under attack, and believes the federal government is trying to remove California's authority to set its own air quality standards, which tend to be tougher than in other states.
"California must continue to demonstrate leadership by stepping up efforts to achieve clean and healthy air for all residents," said Warner.
"This can be done by supporting implementation of state clean car, clean fuel and diesel regulations, redesigning our communities to reduce vehicle trips, and bringing more renewable energy to the state such as solar and wind power. We also urge all Californians to show strong support for the Clean Air Act and to make an effort to reduce air pollution in their communities by driving less, using cleaner transportation options like hybrid and electric vehicles, recycling, avoiding wood burning, and using energy efficient appliances."
Martin won't dismiss that statement because the Clean Air Act is challenged frequently.
But he said there are a lot of ongoing projects that are being done to improve air quality in the state.
He noted, for example, the Carl Moyer program, which works to replace older, high-emission engines with newer, less polluting engines — particularly in the agricultural industry.
That project and others are also part of the association's report.
"I think (the air quality standards) are good. They are tougher than the federal (regulations), and we are making leaps and bounds in trying to meet those standards," Martin said.