Bad air quality in California

In this blog post, we will discuss “bad air quality in California”. Firstly, this post will briefly share the general details of air pollution. Secondly, it will outline the causes and sources of air pollution in California. Additionally, the article will also share some interesting statistics about air pollution. In the end, the blog post will give you practical solutions to improve air quality.

Bad air quality in California

Air quality is poor in California due to the following reasons:

  • Vehicular Pollution
  • Energy generation and production sector
  • Domestic Emissions
  • Wildfires

Before going into its details, let’s first see what air pollution is all about.

 What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.

WHO has suggested some revised guidelines on 22 September 2021 to improve the overall air quality. This organisation has decided to implement permissible limits of the earlier significant pollutants.

These permissible limits of ambient air quality are as follows:

PollutantsHourly mean concentration (ug/m-3)Annual mean concentration (ug/m-3)
PM2.5155
PM104515
NO22510
SO240
CO4
O38 hour: 100Peak season: 60

What are the health effects of air pollution?

Environmental studies have proved that PM2.5 and PM10 have caused relevant harm to public health. Both pollutants can deeply penetrate inside your lungs. PM2.5 can enter your bloodstream, which results in various respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. It can also affect other organs. WHO has declared these two pollutants as carcinogenic elements.

The detailed adverse effects on human health are as follows:

  • Respiratory ailments: COPD, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, common cold and cough, throat infection, lung cancer, chest congestion, sinus congestion, etc. 
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart blockage, stroke, etc. 
  • Mental disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, low productivity, irritation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, brain stroke, paralysis, etc.

The other effects of air pollution are low sperm counts, low reproductive ability, infertility and congenital infant disabilities.

What are the causes of air pollution?

There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution and anthropogenic pollution. Here’s tabular information about it. This table will also show you a general comparison.

ParametersNatural PollutionAnthropogenic pollution
Definition Air pollution, which occurs due to natural phenomena, is called natural pollution.Air pollution, which arises due to human activities, is called anthropogenic/artificial pollution.
CausesTransportationCombustion of fossil fuel Cooking activitiesEnergy generation and consumptionAgriculture Improper Solid Waste ManagementIndustries and factoriesHousehold pollutionCelebrations Construction and demolitionVolcanic Eruption WildfireDust storms

What are the sources of air pollution?

The sources of air pollution are as follows:

● Mobile sources such as cars and buses and other different commutes

● Stationary sources such as oil refineries and factories

● Area sources such as agricultural areas and cities

● Line sources such as roadways and railways

What are the types of air pollution? 

There are two types of air pollution – ambient pollution and household pollution. The below represented tabular form will give you a general idea about these types.

ParametersAmbient PollutionHousehold Pollution
Definition Air pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution/outdoor pollution.Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution/household pollution.
CausesTransportationCombustion of fossil fuel Cooking activitiesEnergy generation and consumptionAgriculture Improper Solid Waste ManagementIndustries and factoriesHousehold pollutionCelebrations Construction and demolitionHousehold activities Perfumes and fresheners Cooking fuel/activitiesCigarette Radon Poor ventilation Uncleaned furniture Pets Asbestos

What is causing air pollution in California?

California is said to have the worst air quality in the U.S. Around 90% of Californians breathe unhealthy air quality levels. The sources of air pollution in California are as follows:

Vehicular pollution

Now, you know that vehicles such as cars, trucks and buses create vehicular pollution. These are the significant sources of pollution in California state. The primary pollutants produced from such types of pollution are particulate matter (PM2.5) and (PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), ground-level ozone (O3) and other toxic air contaminants. 

David Reichmuth, a senior engineer at, Clean Transportation Program, used a computer model to estimate the amount of fine particulate pollution. He further observed that people of colour were more exposed to poor air quality due to on-road vehicles. For example, statistics said that 43% of African Americans, 39% of Latino and 21% of Asians living in California were more exposed to PM2.5 pollution than white Californians.

Energy Generation and Production Sector

Even though California is the nation’s biggest producer of renewable energies such as solar, wind and biomass, not all power plants running on fossil fuels are entirely shut. In October 2021, California urged the federal government to run natural gas-run power plants to avoid blackouts. In addition, the combustion of fossil fuels generates toxic gases and products such as carbon monoxide, NOx, SOx, soot, etc.

Domestic Emissions

Household activities such as burning wood fire for heat also majorly contribute to the state’s air pollution—other emissions from lawnmowers, heaters, cooking activities, etc.

Wildfires

Do you know that humans cause 90% of the wildfires in the U.S.? Unattended campfires, cigarette butts, burning debris, etc., are some of the reasons for man-made wildfires. The rest of the 10% of the wildfires are caused due to heatwaves and lavas.

Around 2 million Californian homes were predicted to be at a significantly higher risk of wildfires. In 2021, about 90% of land in the Western states were experiencing moderate to severe drought. Due to intense heatwaves, the risk of wildfires increased. According to National Interagency Fire Center, there were approximately 48,366 wildfires from 1st January to 29th October 2021. Such wildfires release a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, black carbon, brown carbon and ozone precursors into the atmosphere.

 Besides these, most of the California cities are settled on plains or in valleys surrounded by mountains. These areas act as natural bowls that tend to capture air pollution and prevent air from circulating. On some days, the air closer to the ground becomes cooler than the above air. Such a condition is called temperature inversion. 

Thus, all air pollutants get trapped close to the ground where people are breathing. On other sunny days, cities like Los Angeles get photochemical smog. Photochemical smog happens when emissions from vehicles combine with the sunlight to create a yellow-brown haze.

Effects of air pollution in California

So the effects of these toxic cocktail pollutants result in adverse effects on human health. A study conducted by the California Resources Board found out that particulate pollution causes over 9000 deaths in California annually. Prolonged exposure to air pollution in California can increase the risk of death from cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, cancer and reproductive disorders.

Therefore, Californians must check the AQI designed by CARB (Californian Research Board) before going out.

There are more ways to prevent yourself from air pollution. Find out more in the next section.

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

What AQI should you not go outside?

Can Bad Air Quality Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Can bad air quality make you dizzy?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “bad air quality in California”. Firstly, this post briefly shared the available details of air pollution. Secondly, it outlined the causes and sources of air pollution in California. Additionally, the article also shared some interesting statistics about air pollution. In the end, the blog post gave you practical solutions to improve air quality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Bad Air Quality in California

Why is California have so much air pollution?

The primary sources of air pollution like vehicular pollution, energy generation using fossil fuels, household activities and wildfires largely contribute to California’s air pollution. The combination of these sources creates high unhealthy levels of air pollution. In addition, this polluted air gets trapped in mountainous terrain. Moreover, California’s warm climate helps ozone and other pollutants to thrive on ground-level for a longer time.

What is the primary source of air pollution in California?

The primary source of air pollution in California are on-road vehicles such as cars, buses, trucks, etc. The second most contributor to air pollution is fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel, etc.

Is there a lot of air pollution in California?

Yes, the air monitoring shows that around 90% of Californians breathe poor air quality. As a result, about 730 per million people are estimated to risk of cancer. Out of this, around 520 per million suffer death due to exposure to particulate matter.

Where is clean air in California?

You can witness moderate air quality levels in Southern California, especially in Inyo County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County, Imperial County and some places in San Diego County.

What is the most polluted county in California?

The most polluted county in California is Los Angeles-Long Beach. Bakersfield, Visalia and Fresno-Madera-Hanford follow this.

When and where was photochemical smog first identified in California?

Photochemical smog was first identified in Los Angeles in the year of 1944. This particular type of smog is yellow-brown haze produced by the reaction of sunlight and emissions from automobiles and power plants (coal).

References

Chediak, M. and S. Malik, N., 2021. California wants air pollution rules suspended to burn more natural gas. [online] Worldoil.com. Available at https://www.worldoil.com/news/2021/9/10/california-wants-air-pollution-rules-suspended-to-burn-more-natural-gas 

Iii.org. 2021. Facts + Statistics: Wildfires | III. [online] Available at https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-wildfires 

Reichmuth, D., 2019. Air Pollution from Vehicles in California: People of Color Bear the Biggest Burden. [online] The Equation. Available at https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/pollution-california-people-of-color-bear-burden/ 

Sharp, M., 2017. Air Quality in California & Steps to Help Reduce Air Pollution | School of Public Health. [online] Publichealth.llu.edu. Available at https://publichealth.llu.edu/about/blog/air-quality-california-steps-help-reduce-air-pollution 

Ww2.arb.ca.gov. 2021. Common Air Pollutants | California Air Resources Board. [online] Available at https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/common-air-pollutants 

Ww2.arb.ca.gov. 2021. Sources of Air Pollution | California Air Resources Board. [online] Available at https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/sources-air-pollution 

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