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San Joaquin air quality racks up ‘F’s
air quality
Turlockers woke Wednesday morning to smoke-filled skies, as winds shifted smoke from Northern California wildfires into the Valley. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

San Joaquin County can’t breathe easier just because it is not among the top 10 worst metro areas in the nation for air quality issues as are other Central Valley counties such as Bakersfield, Kern, Madera, Sacramento, Shasta, and Butte.

Despite being in better shape than places like Bakersfield, Fresno, Hanford, Sacramento, Roseville, Chico, and Redding San Joaquin County failed in all three categories of the State of the Air 2022 assessment. The report was issued by the American Red Cross based on data gleaned from the Environmental Protection Agency.

That means there has not been a single year since 2000 when there have been not been excessive high ozone days as well as an excessive number of 24-hour periods of high particle levels that did  not exceed the acceptable levels of three days. Annual particle pollution was only a tad better with four years — 2009 thru 2012 when they were less than the acceptable 12 annual days.

As a result, the American Red Cross noted there are more than 130,000 people among the county’s 767,967 residents that have health issues that put them at greater risk. The list runs from 29,509 cases of adult asthma and 13,961 cases of pediatric asthma to 38,004 people with cardiovascular disease and 29,509 with COPD among other ailments.

The issue is personal to Congressman Josh Harder who, along with his brother, suffered childhood asthma growing up in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

“I grew up with childhood asthma and know what’s it’s like to worry more about your inhaler than your homework. It’s unacceptable to know that something I suffered from as a kid has gotten worse instead of better in our Valley,” Harder said in a press release responding to the State of the Air 2022 report. “Letting our air get this bad is a total failure and I refuse to let my daughter grow up breathing worse air than I did.”

Excessive ozone days have gone from a high of 36 in 1996 to 7 in 2020.

Particle pollution in the 24-hour category — exacerbated in recent years by wildfires — went from 12 in 2000 down to four 2005 before starting a mostly upward  climb until the number of days reached 26 in 2020.

Ozone pollution is the result of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide emissions from motor vehicles or other sources, mixed in the presence of sunlight. It can lead to increased wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness, especially among susceptible children who play outdoors in polluted environments.

Particle pollution, also known as particulate matter or PM, is a general term for a mixture of solid and liquid droplets suspended in the air. Particle pollution comes in many sizes and shapes.

It can be made up of a number of different components, including acids (such as sulfuric acid), inorganic compounds (such as ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate, and sodium chloride), organic chemicals, soot, metals, soil or dust particles, and biological materials (such as pollen and mold spores).

It can create breathing problems as well.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email