San Bernardino County generally has middling air quality by nationwide rankings, but falls among the top 20 in impacts to at-risk groups, according to a report released this week.
The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2015” report, which features data from 2011-13, lumps in the High Desert with other areas of the county, so local conditions cannot be distinguished.
San Bernardino County ranks No. 1 in the report for people at risk among most ozone-polluted counties, and 16th nationwide for most polluted by year-round particle pollution.
“More than four out of 10 people in the U.S. live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution,” according to the ALA. The association gives the county a letter grade of F for experiencing 117.7 high-ozone days, a D for 2.8 high-particle pollution days across 24 hours and an F for 12.6 days a year of high-particle pollution.
“Up here, there’s really no comparison,” Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District spokeswoman Violette Roberts said. “They are using a different standard,” one that is more stringent than state and federal regulations, she added.
“High Desert air quality is improving,” she said, citing the April 9 report released by the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association.
San Bernardino County, with 2.08 million people, includes the following numbers of people in at-risk populations: 578,417 younger than 18; 208,565 older than 65; 51,241 with childhood asthma; 131,342 with adult asthma; 66,473 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; 94,315 with cardiovascular disease; 144,112 with diabetes and 392,242 living in poverty.
“Childhood asthma is something to keep watch on,” said Kevin Mahany, director of Healthy Communities at St. Joseph Health, St. Mary in Apple Valley.
Mahany said the High Desert has an incidence rate of about 12 percent, similar to the statewide rate. He believes the condition is more prevalent in lower-elevation areas in the county, based on response deployments of the hospital’s Mobile Asthma Medical Unit.
The report concludes that while America is making progress to clean the air since institution of the Clean Air Act in 1970, the American Lung Association calls for several steps to safeguard the air everyone breathes — strengthen the “outdated” ozone standards; adopt a strong final Clean Power Plan; ensure through Congress that the protections under the Clean Air Act remain effective and enforced, and fund the work to provide healthy air.
To review the American Lung Association report, go to www.lung.org. To read the more localized MDAQMD report, go to www.mdaqmd.ca.gov.
By Gary Brodeur