Gasping for breath: The health consequences of Valley’s air pollution
October 18, 2011
• New research documents link between pollution and ER visits
• ‘The San Joaquin Valley is arguably the most polluted air basin in the United States’
If there were any doubts before, a new study by researchers at California State University, Fresno now spells out regional evidence of the public health consequences of air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley portion of the Central Valley.
The air pollution study by the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State says that as ozone and fine particulates in central San Joaquin Valley air increase, so do rates of children’s asthma emergency-room visits and hospitalizations.
An estimated 1,830 additional asthma emergency room visits per year for children were associated with ozone and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), according to the research.
Children also experienced increased use of hospital emergency rooms for pneumonia, and adults were more likely to be hospitalized for asthma and acute myocardial infarctions as levels of PM 2.5 increased, the study says.
It focused on air pollution impacts on emergency room and hospital use for respiratory and cardio-vascular conditions in the region’s most populous urban centers: Fresno/Clovis, Bakersfield and Modesto.
“The San Joaquin Valley is arguably the most polluted air basin in the United States,” says Institute Director John Capitman. “This study combined air quality and health care utilization data for Fresno/Clovis, Bakersfield and Modesto to address the question: Are short-term increases in air pollution associated with respiratory and cardiovascular emergency department and hospital admissions in the San Joaquin Valley?”
Tim Tyner, associate director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research, UCSF-Fresno and co-author of the report, says, “We found that children in particular face increasing risks for asthma exacerbations severe enough to seek care in the ER with increasing PM 2.5. Regionally, kids with asthma are more likely to end up in the ER even when air quality is rated as moderate, with the risk increasing linearly as air pollution worsens.”