A report by CSUN’s San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center found that most of the air quality in the valley is improving, but particulate concentration and ozone pollution is on the rise in certain areas of the valley.
The particulate concentrations in the East Valley are rising and mixed results were found for the West Valley, which is worse by state standards but better by federal standards, according to the study.
Besides ozone and particulates, all pollution measures registered well below federal and state standards and their levels either fell or remained low, the study said.
In the report, Daniel Blake, a CSUN economist and the university’s San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center said the reduction of the valley’s air pollution in the last 30 years is remarkable, but there is still a lot of work to do and progress is needed with continuing problems in ozone pollution and particulate concentration.
The report shows that ozone pollution in the valley was much lower between 2004 and 2007 than previous years. The number of violation days in 2007, regardless of which standards applied, were lower than those in 2004.
However, the current levels are volatile and both the East and West Valley still have problems with pollution. The West Valley is more likely to show violation days than does the East Valley, the report said.
Geography professor Douglas Fischer said the ozone, which is a layer of gas and smoke in the earth’s upper atmosphere that blocks ultraviolet rays from the sun, has led to serious air quality problems in the U.S. where many people use cars and buses. The ozone isn’t necessarily always harmful, said Fischer, and its impact on air quality differs by location.
‘Most of ozone pollution that getting the ground level is coming from engine exhausts, primarily automobiles, but any internal combustion motors running ground level produce a bunch of compounds. As those decompose in sunlight, it produces ground ozone,’ said Fischer.
Some groups of people are sensitive to ozone when they are active outside because physical activities make people breathe faster and deeper, said health science professor Vicki Ebin.
According to Ebin, there is a high rate of asthma in the San Fernando Valley.
‘The ozone affects people at the times they go running, so athletes and anybody had difficulty with any kind of lung disease are at higher risks,’ Ebin said.
Active children who spend lot of time playing outside, active adults of all ages who exercise and work outside, athletes and people with asthma or other respiratory diseases that make the lungs more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution are at a higher risk, she said.
The ground-level ozone mainly affects lungs because of inhalation of it can reduce lung function, irritate the respiratory system, aggravate asthma and chronic lung disease and cause permanent lung damage, said Ebin.
Health problems due to air pollution can occur without noticeable signs, and people in high-ozone level areas may find the initial symptoms decrease over time. However, even if the symptoms have disappeared, lung damage may still continue, Ebin said.
In order to avoid unhealthy exposure to ozone, people should think when and where it is safe, said Ebin.
‘Lots of work needs to be done and working with people so they would understand when it’s safe to exercise, when it’s not,’ Ebin said.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is available to the public on the Internet at airnow.gov. San Fernando Valley’s air quality is currently measured as moderate in terms of the level of health concerns, according to the website.
Geography professor Gong-Yuh Lin suggested driving less will help better environment.
Jeimmy Delacruz, undecided, said he takes the train to school every day.
‘I don’t drive…If I drive in a car, it’s back and forth. I take the Metro (train) to school…It’s faster than a car and saves gas and time,’ Delacruz said. He said his mode of commute decreases pollution.
‘If I drive from home to here, it takes one hour and 20 minutes…The train takes a little less than an hour,’ Delacruz said. Another advantage to taking the train, she said, is the reduced amount of stress from driving and dealing with traffic.
Biochemistry major Angeline Phan said she felt ozone pollution is getting worse because of factories and cars in the Valley.
We could use hybrid cars and save gas,’ said Phan. She said for her commute, using public transit is more of an inconvenience.
‘I have to wait a long time,’ Phan said. ‘If you’ve got a car, it’s faster.’
Fischer said everyone can play a part in reducing air pollution.
‘If you change your commute, you can carpool even one day a week, or take the bus or train even one day a week. It doesn’t have to be all the time,’ said Fischer.