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There are many things I love about living in the Central Valley. Fresh produce year round, affordable housing, close proximity to both beaches and mountains, nice people… I could go on, but if you read this site frequently, you don’t need me to. And though living in a valley certainly offers certain geographic advantages like expansive, unobstructed views of the horizon and a lack of nauseating, winding mountain roads (like one Old Creek Road I recently had to endure on a trip to the Central Coast – more like “Oh Crap! Road” if you ask me), it’s bowl-like shape also unfortunately makes a near perfect trap for particulates and pollutants to are found in the air. Without wind or rain, our San Joaquin Valley air can become laden with dust, smog, and ozone causing the pretty Valley views to become hazy and creating health hazards for our families.
The good thing, is that we have a local agency whose job is to help us find ways to reduce and minimize air pollution in the Valley and maintain our health. Recently, we wrote on FresYes about a conversation we had with representatives from that agency, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (I’m going to go with “Air District” from here on), about the effects of the Rough Fire on our local air. I wanted to delve just a bit deeper into the subject of air quality in the Valley, because in my recent work I’ve come to learn about multiple resources and tools that the Air District offers to Valley residents and families, that I believe many are still unaware of. Below, please find a list of the tools and resources available to you at any time, at no cost from the Valley Air District.
- The RAAN (Real-time Air Advisory Network) Webpage
Do you remember your school or have you seen your child’s school using the flag system to indicate daily air quality? Most of us who’ve lived in the Valley are familiar with the flags, with different colors being used to indicate the air quality for the day and what outdoor activities would be allowed given those conditions. Well, that flag system has actually mostly retired in the Valley because the Air District now offers an even better system for monitoring air quality.
If you go to Valleyair.org and click on the RAAN box, you’ll be able to click your Valley location and find out what the air quality is at the actual time of day that you are checking it. (Hence “real-time” being part of the name.)
Check it out – you’ll start here… (click the RAAN box on the right just a little ways down from the top)
Then, click the area in which you live or want to be outdoors in…
And BOOM – just like that, you can see exactly what the air quality is like at the very time you are checking it.
And if you scroll down just a little, you can see a key that will help you understand that Good, Moderate and Unhealthy are statuses determined by the concentration of ozone or particulate matter in the air.
Why is this so important and how does this contribute to getting kids outdoors more? The old flag system based the entire day’s forecast on a predicted average of the entire county’s air quality. However, the RAAN system allows you to find out the quality of the air at the actual time you want to be outside. In fact, the Air District created ROAR (Real-Time Outdoor Activity Risk – see the chart below) to help schools and coaches make decisions about outdoor activities for students based on actual air quality.
Today’s kids are already spending way too much time indoors, glued to their screens and not getting enough P.E. in school. By checking the RAAN system, you’ll be able to find great times most days for kids to play outdoors, unlike the old system which blanketed the entire day with one air quality status.
- Kids’ Air Quality Kits
Want to find a way to explain air quality and ways to help keep the air clean where we live to your kids? You can get a free Kids’ Air Quality Kit from the Air District, mailed right to your home. It includes an activity book, crayons and an airplane your kids can build with you, while learning all about the air in a way that’s age appropriate but also scientifically accurate. (If your child is anything like mine, a bit of a worrier – you can’t just say, “Sometimes there are harmful chemicals in the air.” without getting a “THE AIR IS AAALLLLL POISON?!?!” response 😉 so this kit will help with the explanation.) To get the kit, you can download and fax or email the order form here or call (559) 230-6000 to request a kit.
One of the best ways to help ensure kids will be able to enjoy the freshest possible Valley air for years to come is to help reduce pollution by making lifestyle changes that are within your means. The following actions all help reduce pollution in our air and have Air District rebate programs associated with them, that will help defray some or much of the associated costs. Simply click on the links to go directly to the rebate program webpages.
Trading in your gas lawn equipment for electric
(Leaf blowers are one of the very worst polluters!)