“We have increasingly had more attacks of asthma in the last five years, probably in the last 10,” said Sara Harris, Yuba College nurse, “and they’re getting more serious when they happen.”One of the most significant causes of asthma is air pollution. Harris reports that when farmers burn the rice fields, “the attacks and complaints are more frequent.”
The Yuba-Sutter area does not currently meet state or federal clean air standards.
Programs like the Feather River Air Quality Management District are putting clean air ideas into action to improve valley air quality. Factors such as diesel trucks using local highways as thoroughfares, farmers burning agricultural waste, and tractors pulling up dust make clean air more of a quest than a reality in the Yuba-Sutter area.PM10, fine particles that travel deep into the lungs and have been linked to premature deaths, chronic bronchitis and aggravated asthma, put our portion of the valley under state “non attainment” status. Ground level ozone, a pollutant that blankets the Yuba-Sutter area, fails to meet either state or federal standards.
Our area’s level of ozone can present significant problems. The Enviromental Protection Agency website states, “When inhaled, even at low levels, ozone can cause respiratory problems and aggravated asthma in children, the elderly, those with respiratory disease, and even otherwise healthy adults who are working or exercising outside.”Larry Matlock, a planner for the Feather River Air Quality Management District, explained, “Ozone is what happens when reactive organic gas (ROG) combines with nitrogen oxide (NOx), sunlight and heat.” The Sacramento Metro district, which now includes the bottom tip of Sutter County, has a 2005 clean air deadline to meet. If this deadline is not met with a positive change in the air quality then it will be designated an Extreme nonattainment area. Larry Matlock replied, “If the Sacramento Metro district is designated extreme, then the Feather River district could slowly be included with the Sacramento Metro District because we contribute to their smog.”
The Sacramento district, using a model as a guide to a clean air solution, was looking to meet the 2005 deadline. However, the unexpected popularity of sports utility vehicles has skewed the model. Now the Sacramento Metro district is unsure that the area will meet the clean air standards for that date.
Larry Matlock is part of the team that is working hard to make our area a safer place to breathe. Matlock stated that his goal is, “beautification and cleaner air at the same time.”
He continued, “If we take an area such as Plumas Street and provide a trolley service that consistently runs up and down the street, also providing bikes at either end of the street for the public to use, people will be inspired not to use their cars in areas like this.”
Matlock added, “Some cities already have these sorts of programs that really do work. The trick is to get everyone in the mindset that this can be done.” With a more health conscious community comes cleaner air and easier breathing.