Recent good news about a Sacramento environment health issue. Our region’s critical outdoor air quality is improving. Hooray!
On May 3, 2011, the Cleaner Air Partnership released a report entitled “2011 Sacramento Region Air Quality Progress Report.” A summary of the report has also been released. At least four key points emerge.
First, the Greater Sacramento Region has historically had poor outdoor air quality.
For example, a 2000 report was issued to the Sierra Health Foundation identifying the region as a prime example of how outdoor air quality is a national health problem.
Second, recent efforts have improved the region’s outdoor air quality.
The 2011 report finds that since 1990 there are seven indicators of outdoor air quality that are doing well to meeting federal and state standards, and the trend is moving in the desired direction:
- Ozone (or smog) levels down – 7% reduction meeting 1 hour exposure standard (failing 8 hour standard).
- Nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels down – 41% reduction NOx’s are ozone precursors.
- Volatile organic compound (VOC) levels down – 53% reduction. VOC’s are ozone precursors.
- Course particulate matter (PM-10) levels at federal standards – since 2002.
- Fine particulate matter (PM – 2.5) levels down – 68% reduction.
- Significant dirty engine conversion financing up – $140 million in matching funds since 1996.
- Changed land use patterns reducing tons per day of car pollution – reduction of 0.09 tons reactive organic gases & 0.11 tons NOx.
These improvements in outdoor air quality were made despite a 40% increase in population.
Third, indicators demonstrate that more improvements need to be made to the region’s outdoor air quality.
For example, there are two indicators of outdoor air quality in the Greater Sacramento Region that more work to be done to meet federal and state standards, and minimize impacts on public health and our business community:
- Asthma hospitalizations up – 2,333 in 2009 (up from 2,009 in 2007).
- Cardiopulmonary premature deaths up – 640 premature deaths per year from PM-2.5 exposures.
In reviewing its report, the Cleaner Air Partnership noted the following:
“While significant progress has been made to reduce smog and soot over two decades, the report found the region needs to do more to reduce the health impacts triggered by poor air quality. The rate of asthma hospitalizations has trended downward since 2001, but the report noted 2,233 hospitalizations in 2009 – a figure still too high. And long-term exposure to fine soot, smaller than 2.5 microns, has been shown to have a causal result in premature cardiopulmonary deaths, causing 640 premature deaths annually in the Sacramento Valley.”
Fourth, indoor air quality starting with the home must also be improved in order to reduce asthma and related diseases.
As earlier reported in this column, very recent US Environmental Protection Agency data demonstrates that air pollution is down all over the country. As also earlier reported, this reduction increases predictions of life expectancy.
See more articles by Frank Hagie on Sacramento asthma and other Sacramento environmental health issues.
But asthma rates are not following suit. As noted, asthma prevalence and incidence are increasing nationally and in the Greater Sacramento Region at the same time outdoor air quality is increasing as well.
The explanation is that a key, if not the key, to asthma is the quality of the indoor air at home.
Asthma attacks are triggered and aggravated by inhalation of airborne allergens, bioaerosols, particulates, and volatile organic compounds. Most of these compounds are either produced and/or concentrated indoors at home.
It is estimated by the Air Resources Board of the California Environmental Protection Agency that in the Greater Sacramento Region (like the rest of the state), over 65% of the air inhaled by adults is indoor air at home. Children, over 75%.
The indoor air at home is a site, if not the key and predominate site, of human exposures to airborne disease agents that cause and aggravate asthma in people living locally.
It is only when the indoor air quality in the home is improved that a real reduction in asthma prevalence and incidence will be possible in the Greater Sacamento Region. The Cleaner Air Partnership report acknowledges this. “Indoor air quality in the home and workplace is a serious concern for people with asthma.”
It is great news for all of us living in the Greater Sacramento Region that our outdoor air quality is improving. Lots of dedicated and sustained effort by dedicated and talented people in the public and private sector has yielded great results. For all of us.
Now, as for asthma which locally is at epidemic rates, let’s improve the indoor air quality at home as well. It can be done. And prevention of that dreaded disease can follow.
Go Sacramento, Go!