Health

San Benito County air quality gets passing grade from Lung Association

Ozone levels began to drop in 2006, says the group’s State of the Air report.

Overall, San Benito County’s air got a clean bill of health, receiving a C for ozone levels, a pass for annual levels of particle pollution, and an F for several days starting in 2016, according to the American Lung Association’s recently released State of the Air report. 

Levels of ozone began to drop in 2006 and have received a passing grade since 2013.

The Lung Association’s annual national air quality report card uses the most recent air pollution data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the two most widespread types of pollution: ozone (smog) and particle pollution (PM2.5, also known as soot). 

The report grades counties and ranks cities and counties based on their scores for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels.

Figure 1 Daily Particle Pollution. Courtesy of the American Lung Association.
Figure 1 Daily Particle Pollution. Courtesy of the American Lung Association.

While the greater Bay Area came in fourth on the list of the nation’s 25 most particle-polluted cities, no city in San Benito county made that list. San Benito did not make the most ozone polluted list either while San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland came in at 13. 

San Benito County’s overall ozone levels began to drop in 2006. Daily particle pollution levels began to rise in 2016 while annual levels dropped in 2014 but are rising steadily. 

Figure 3 Ozone pollution. Courtesy of the American Lung Association.
Figure 3 Ozone pollution. Courtesy of the American Lung Association.

According to the Lung Association, in 2020 ozone levels decreased in most areas as residents followed pandemic stay-at-home orders but particle pollution increased due to several large wildfires. 

Figure 2 Annual Particle Pollution. Courtesy of the American Lung Association.
Figure 2 Annual Particle Pollution. Courtesy of the American Lung Association.

The association listed this profile of most-at-risk residents in San Benito County: 

Total Population: 64,055

Children Under 18: 16,309

Adults 65 and over: 8,659,

Pediatric Asthma: 1,113

Adult Asthma: 4,492

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): 2,518

Lung Cancer: 24

Cardiovascular Disease: 3,255

Pregnancies: 640

Poverty Estimate: 5,025

People of Color: 43,663

 

For more information on the American Lung Association’s air quality data, click here

 

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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.