Farming in the Central Valley is a major contributor to the area's smog. (Photo: Getty Images)
Farming in the Central Valley is a major contributor to the area's smog. (Photo: Getty Images)

California’s Central Valley sadly boasts some of the dirtiest air in the country and the as the temperature goes up, the air quality usually goes down.

Right now, The Weather Channel shows it’s 102 in Clovis, a town northeast of Fresno. EPA’s AirNow site says the air quality for all of Fresno County has nudged into the “unhealthy for everyone” category. At this level the site says “everyone may begin to experience health effects.”

And today is especially important in Clovis, because the city is hosting the prestigious CIF State Track and Field Championships. Scores of athletes from across the state will be competing in air that could make them ill.

But it doesn’t stop there. From the Fresno Bee:

To make matters worse, the hourly updates on ozone pollution will be unavailable online at times today because the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is performing maintenance on its system.

Ozone is a corrosive gas that often reaches its peak in the late afternoon in the San Joaquin Valley. The CIF championships will begin with field events at 3 p.m. at Buchanan High School’s Veteran Memorial Stadium. The running events are scheduled at 5 p.m.

Kevin Hall, Director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, says sporting events should be delayed. Even waiting an hour or two can often be sufficient for air quality levels to improve. “The coaches and administrators usually take caution during practices, but in an event like this, there’s a conflict of interest. … They may err on the side of convenience,” Hall told me in an interview this afternoon.
Sporting events can pose a risk for athletes in this unhealthy air, he says. “Many and perhaps most of these athletes come from outside the valley,” Hall said. “So, one, they’re not acclimated to heat, and two, they might have a condition they’re not aware of. People come to the valley and experience asthma attacks for the first time in their lives.”
The National Weather Service predicts it will be 95 tomorrow in Clovis.
Temperatures, Smog Soar in Central Valley — as Statewide Track Meet Starts 1 June,2012Lisa Aliferis


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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