San Diego-area health impacts from air pollution among worst in US: report

SAN DIEGO — Is San Diego’s air quality impacting the overall health of its residents? The short answer is “yes.”

According to the “Health of Air” report, which includes contributions from health researchers from multiple U.S. research institutions, the areas of San Diego, Chula Vista, Carlsbad and Vista are experiencing air pollution levels greater than recommended by the American Thoracic Society.

These specific areas were ranked in the following categories with the data reflecting research between 2018-2020.

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— No. 13 in U.S. for the highest number of adverse health impacts from fine particle pollution.

  • 263 excess deaths from particle pollution

  • 54 new cases of lung cancer

  • 4,700 occurrences of various cardiovascular and respiratory morbidities from particle pollution

  • 330,000 adversely impacted days

— No. 7 in U.S. for the highest number of health impacts from ozone pollution.

  • 200 excess deaths from ozone pollution

  • 14,200 occurrences of various cardiovascular and respiratory morbidities from ozone pollution

  • 1 million adversely impacted days

— No. 8 in U.S. overall for the highest number of health impacts from total air pollution.

The full rankings in each category can be found here.

According to the American Thoracic Society, this study “provides policy-relevant estimates for every monitored county and city in the U.S. for the adverse health impacts of outdoor pollution concentrations, using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) design values for years 2018–2020.”

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What exactly can these deaths be attributed to? The American Thoracic Society explained that the study indicates that emissions from wildland fires plays a role.

“Although the megafires are more newsworthy, air quality and health burdens from wildland fires are also driven by the cumulative impacts from the many smaller fires that are burning on any given day,” said Daniel Tong, Ph.D., associate professor at George Mason University and a member of NASA HAQAST.

Another attributor, according to the American Thoracic Society, is air quality management strategies outside what is required by the Clean Air Act. This may come into play in regards to the close proximity of these areas to Mexico, which follows separate air quality laws.

Though the American Thoracic Society also noted, “not all air pollution can be readily addressed through revisions to national air quality standards.”

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