Air District officials blame weather for smoggier air

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Bay Area air quality officials are blaming the weather for our smoggier days and say this may a sign of something bigger.

Bay Area smog levels were higher this past summer than they've been in about four years. And now, we're facing the third straight winter Spare The Air Day, which means no wood-burning fires on Thanksgiving Day.

ABC7 News found out officials are blaming the weather and say this may a sign of something bigger.

"If you're looking over towards the East Bay, you can definitely see the haze. You know and that's the smog," Irene Alzapiedi said.

There's a brown curtain over the view from Alzapiedi's home in Corte Madera. She knew it was there Wednesday morning, before she ever looked outside.

"I become more short of breath. Like today, it was quite noticeable because I had to go up and down stairs several times today and I really felt the difference in the air," Irene Alzapiedi, a lung disease patient, said.

Alzapiedi suffers from emphysema. She's one of more than a million Californians estimated to have lung conditions that make them sensitive to smog.

"Smog irritates the lungs, it also irritates the eyes, the nasal passages," Bay Area Air Quality Management District board member Mark Ross said.

Ross says smog has two ingredients: volatile organic compounds, often from industry, and nitrogen oxides, mainly from cars. When they bake together in the hot summer sun, you get ozone -- the bad stuff.

"It's unhealthy, and that's why we ask people to drive less on spare the air days," Ross said.

Of course, the air district would love it if hardly anyone drove on Spare The Air Days, but just ask drivers who are out filling up at a gas station and you'll see why that's not the case.

One driver said, "Spare the air? I don't know anything about Spare The Air days."

But for those who can get out of their cars the air district says it's becoming more important than ever. The Bay Area's famous fog was notably absent last summer.

"And so you don't get that mix of fog coming in, blowing out the smog as much as we usually do," Ross said.

Indeed, the same scientists who've forecast rising oceans and melting polar ice caps also predicted smoggier days.

"It was looking like the models were predicting oh this is going to happen in 10-20 years, and it turned out to be 10-20 months because now we're experiencing it firsthand the precursors of what climate change could be for the Bay Area," Ross said.

So next Spare The Air Day, if you don't do it for the planet, Alzapiedi says, do it for her.

"I'm a lung cancer survivor and this really prolongs my life," Alzapiedi said.

Related Topics:
air qualitybay area air quality management districtbay areawinterhealthpollutionclimate changespare the airdrivingCorte Madera
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