The season most associated with poor air quality gets a head start with hot stagnant weather.
Consider it a different kind of June gloom.
This month, instead of mostly cool, cloudy starts to our Southern California days, we’ve gotten a lot of sunny, hot and stagnant conditions – ideal for cooking up unhealthful air pollution.
And wildfires last week in Angeles National Forest near Duarte just made it worse.
This early start to smog season 2016 has given us only four days this month when ozone pollution didn’t exceed the federal health standard somewhere in our ocean-to-mountains air basin, according to pollution data from the California Air Resources Board.
And that makes life difficult for people like Karen Jakpor of Riverside, whose chronic asthma took a turn for the worse starting about a week ago.
“With a string of the bad air days, I had to avoid outdoor activity and stay indoors,” said Jakpor. “I also had to increase dosage of my steroid medication.”
Despite her asthma flare-up, she flew to Boston on Friday to attend a wedding. But she never made it to the celebration. A sinus infection landed her in a hospital for a brief stay. Now she is worried about returning to the bad air in Southern California.
The short-term air pollution forecast doesn’t look good.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District expects the air today to be unhealthful for all people in the Riverside, Perris Valley and San Bernardino areas.
And it is expected to be unhealthful today for more medically sensitive people in western San Bernardino County, the San Gabriel Valley, Lake Elsinore and Big Bear Lake areas.
The problem is that ozone pollution rises during hot, stagnant weather as it cooks up urban pollutants. Specifically, volatile organic compounds, such as industrial solvents, react with nitrogen dioxides from burning fuel to create the unstable gas.
Ozone irritates moist tissues, such as eyes and respiratory tracts. It causes nausea, headaches and burning eyes and triggers asthma attacks, among other health problems. It also has been linked in studies to early deaths.
But the news isn’t all bad.
Ozone generally hits unhealthful levels in the later morning and afternoon hours.
That means air can be OK for running and other physical activity during the early morning and nighttime hours.