Local News

Friday, Sep 14 2012 07:48 PM

Poor air quality expected through Saturday

BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer rkheel@bakersfield.com

Kern County's air quality is forecast as unhealthy for sensitive groups through Saturday, which along with the heat caused many football games in the county Friday night to be pushed back until later in the night when air quality improved a bit.

The forecast comes from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which puts out daily and real-time reports about air conditions in the Central Valley. Though the air quality is poor, it's actually slightly better than this time last year, said Jamie Holt, chief communications officer for the district.

"We have poor air, but it's not incredibly unusual for this time of year," Holt said.

Unhealthy for sensitive groups is third lowest ranking the district gives, after moderate and good. Anyone with respiratory issues like asthma or emphysema and small children are at risk at this air quality level, Holt said.

Air quality is worst during the summer from 3 to 5 p.m. after certain emissions bake in the heat causing an ozone effect. On Friday, the high for the day was 103 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Doctors commended the football teams that pushed back their games until later in the night because of the air quality.

Dr. Sameer Gupta, an allergist with Kaiser Permanente, said poor air quality can cause problems for people with underlying issues like asthma when compacted with the heat of the day. Moving a sport event to night helps alleviate that.

"Bad air and heat don't mix," he said.

Gupta said he's glad schools are becoming more aware of the issue and taking proactive steps.

Dr. Claudia Jonah, the Kern County public health officer, said spectators at sporting events can be affected by poor air quality and heat, as well. "Anybody that's outside," she said, will be affected the conditions.

Even for people without respiratory issues, Jonah said it is good to hold off on physical activity when air quality is poor so that issues don't develop.

Pushing a football game back "is a prudent adjustment to make," she said. "so you can still have the game without health risks."

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