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Valley air quality worsens

A common gripe among San Joaquin Valley residents is the inconvenience of sweltering summer temperatures. While preoccupied with summer heat, little do they know they are also coating their lungs with arguably toxic, searing air during winter.

A majority of these toxins enter the San Joaquin Valley as a result of the economy of a rapidly growing population.

“There is no big solution to the number of little environmental problems the Valley has,” Richard Varenchik, California Air Resources Board spokesman, said. “More automotive pollution as a result of the growing population, agricultural tilling and pesticides, and livestock farming that stirs up dust are just a few unavoidable problems in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Generally, the San Joaquin Valley faces a far more cumbersome atmospheric foe than man-made pollutants. Geography is the greatest hindrance to improving air quality.

“The Valley is attacked on many fronts,” Varenchik said. “It is like a bowl with its valleys surrounded by mountains where a lack of air circulation and heat is conducive to bad air quality.”

During the winter months, bad air days are increasing due to car exhaust, fireplace soot and other pollutants.

“The foggy atmosphere and the more stagnant air makes the atmosphere just as contaminated as summer,” Charlie Goldberg, marketing and education specialist at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, said. “In metropolitan areas, residential burning accounts for 30% of the particulate pollution from November to February.

Even though who traveled away from the Valley over Christmas break know the effects of bad air.

“When I left, the Valley looked like a bowl of brown soup,” Christopher Vanden Hoek, ’03, said. “I came back from two weeks in South Dakota and within fives minutes of getting off the plane my throat was burning.”

Even athletic directors such as Scott Callisch find that the air has continually gotten worse over the years and causes problems for outdoor school sports.

“I have a lot more students with asthma than I did when I first started teaching years ago due to the air quality,” Callisch, campus director of physical education, said. “When you can actually see the air you’re breathing, it’s never a good thing.”

Campus administration issued a bad air day warning plan on Jan. 15 effective immediately. The plan included no outdoor PE classes, lunch breaks indoors and outdoor sporting events such as soccer games will be cancelled. Daily announcements will indicate when the conditions will affect school activities.

Fresno City Council is preparing to pass an ordinance at the end of January and will ban wood burning fireplaces in new construction as well as implementing no burn days in an effort to curb pollution. The San Joaquin Valley region’s air is one of the dirtiest in the nation and the Valley reaches unhealthy levels even in winter.

“The solutions being put into place include mandatory ?no burn days’ beginning next year,” Goldberg said. “It will consist of a ban on residential burning for approximately 20 of the Valley’s most polluted nights.”

The solutions and general advice regarding bad San Joaquin Valley air remains the same summer and winter: be aware of the air quality and limit physical outdoor activity or just stay indoors.” “Sheree Temple, Photographer” “Heavy breathing can be caused by even a short jaunt to classes held in the trailers across the parking lot. Whitney Luallen, Whitney Counts and Daurissa Garcia walk through this thick air every day to reach their 6 period senior Bible class.” “” “” “

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