RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — The cocktail of high heat and emissions pollution, along with raging wildfires, has caused poor air quality throughout much of Riverside County, and the unhealthy air will continue for at least another day.
"Air quality will be impacted by elevated ozone levels due to a heat wave as well as elevated fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels due to smoke from wildfires in both Southern and Northern California," the South Coast Air Quality Management District reported Wednesday. "Since Friday August 14, Air Quality Index (AQI) levels have been in the Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy categories each afternoon in inland areas throughout the region."
On Thursday, the agency said Unhealthy air will plague the following Riverside County areas on Friday:
The rest of Riverside County, with the exception of the Coachella Valley, can expect Unhealthy air for sensitive groups on Friday. Coachella Valley air quality is forecast to be Moderate.
Across the county, the bad air is mostly blamed on increased ozone levels.
"Elevated temperatures, which enhance ozone formation rates, coupled with predicted atmospheric inversions that trap pollution near the surface, and increased emissions of chemicals that form ozone from nearby wildfires are expected to cause unusually high and persistent levels of ozone pollution," the SCAQMD said.
When air quality is deemed Unhealthy, everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and residents with higher sensitivity to air pollution may experience more serious effects.
When air quality is deemed Very Unhealthy, everyone in the region may experience more serious health effects.
"Ozone air pollution can cause respiratory health problems, including trouble breathing, asthma attacks, and lung damage. Research also indicates that ozone exposure can increase the risk of premature death. Children, older adults, and people with asthma or COPD may be more sensitive to the health effects of ozone," the SCAQMD said.
Fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, is also harming the air, although mostly in neighboring counties. Wildfires burning in Southern and Northern California are producing heavy smoke, increasing the likelihood of elevated PM2.5 levels — mostly in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.