Los Angeles Collegian Online

Angelenos Choke on Changing Climate from Wildfires, Heat

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By Jonathan Montes

Flames from the Bobcat fire light up the night sky in Monrovia on Sept. 11. The blaze burned more than 114,000 acres in L.A. County, including parts of the Angeles National Forest.

Photo by Eddie M: Bobcat Fire view from a kitchen window in Monrovia, CA.
Photo by Eddie M: Bobcat Fire view from a kitchen window in Monrovia, CA.     

Air in Los Angeles is unhealthy, but recent high temperatures exacerbated by climate change and wildfire season makes the problem worse.

The current Air Quality Index in L.A. is 169, which means the quality is unhealthy. The Air Quality Management District measures the air such as: ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, the Air Now reports. The U.S. air quality index gives scores of 0-50 as healthy. 

AQMD’s data over the last month shows L.A. contains high levels of unhealthy air pollution.

AirNow.gov offers current online public news for air quality in the U.S. Air Now health officials recommend people with heart and lung diseases, older adults, children and teens take the following steps to reduce exposure. 

“Avoid strenuous outdoor activities, keep outdoor activities short, consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them,” the Air Now website states. 

Following these steps should help people with health issues avoid dangerous pollution, the website states. 

Airnow.gov offers a list of ways to avoid unhealthy air.

“Choose less strenuous activities (like walking instead of running) so you don’t breathe as hard, shorten the amount of time you are active outdoors and be active outdoors when air quality is better,” the Air Now website states. 

The website says their recommendations can help people avoid the health risks of air pollution. 

A new study says Americans in communities with higher smog levels are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19. 

Scientists at T.H Chan School of Public Health say not only do people have to worry about the unhealthy air quality in L.A., but also worry about the coronavirus as well. 

The Los Angeles Times reported American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer warns about poor air quality and the pandemic. 

“We cannot afford to delay cleanup of dangerous air pollution,” Wimmer said to the Times. “In fact, it is more important than ever.” 

He says here that leaders must act before it is too late. Health experts recommend people who live in high pollution areas  apply social distancing and follow air quality warnings. 

AQMD recommends Californians maintain social distancing, especially if they live in high-polluted areas. 

Bradley Whitaker is a senior public information specialist from South Coast AQMD. 

In an email to the Collegian, he stated air pollution can intensify anywhere in California. 

“The air quality is currently unhealthy in portions of the South Coast Air Basin,” Whitaker said. “Levels may reach very unhealthy or higher in areas of direct smoke impacts, particularly near the Bobcat Fire and El Dorado Fire. Impacts in areas further away from the fire will be highly variable throughout the day, affecting different parts of the region at different times.”

Whitaker mentioned the decrease in emissions of nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compound and carbon monoxide for the past 20 years. 

“South Coast AQMD has made tremendous strides in cleaning the air for nearly half a century,” Whitaker said. “While meeting upcoming clean air deadlines are challenging, we expect to see continued downward trends in emissions.” 

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