Spare the Air Alert: Here are the Bay Area 'hot spots' for poor air quality today

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- An increased level of smog led the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to issue a Spare the Air Alert, in effect Tuesday.

The alert means any midday plans should be made for indoors.

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According to Air Quality experts, ozone levels peak in the afternoon and could seriously impact sensitive groups. Specifically, people who have had to navigate a number of air quality alerts and advisories already, because of wildfire activity.

"We know, without a doubt, short-term exposures will impact you," Dr. Mary Prunicki is the Director of Air Pollution and Health Research at Stanford University's Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research.

Dr. Prunicki told ABC7 News, "We'll see increases in ER visits, hospital admissions, school absenteeism- things like that have definitely been shown to be linked to the smoke and the elevated ozone."

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) said parts of the East Bay and South Bay could see higher-than-normal levels of poor air quality.

"Typically, that's where it gets hottest," BAAQMD spokesperson Aaron Richardson explained. "Ozone gets created with an interaction between heat and sunlight and vehicle exhaust and other combustion products."

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"So those are looking like the hotspots for tomorrow in the Bay Area," he added.

"In the South Bay, a lot of people have to commute- we really don't have a choice. And also, with COVID, people are more reluctant to take public transportation or carpool," Dr. Prunicki shared. "So I think it compounds the issue significantly, just given the distance between homes and jobs, and the complications with COVID."

An Experimental Smoke Forecast model by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed how smoke from the KNP Complex Fire burning in Sequoia National Forest may impact the Bay Area starting Tuesday.

The Air Quality District said it's working to determine if that smoke could further impact our air quality.

"That smoke may begin to impact the Bay Area later in the week. So, really, our forecasters are going to be working day to day to make that call," Richardson told ABC7 News. "That's going to be. I think, what the challenge is. Is this just a one day episode, or will we have some lingering air quality issues even after the ozone levels go down?"

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He said Tuesday will mark the Bay Area's 14th Spare the Air Alert day, in addition to the 22 advisories for poor air quality this year alone.

That number is significantly fewer than last year's 52 alert days. Though Richardson added, "Substantially. Although we're not out of the woods yet with these wildfires."

Dr. Prunicki told ABC7 News, if there is any lesson to take away from the several Spare the Air Alert days experienced, "The lesson would be, just think before you go outside. So, if you don't need to take your car, don't do it. You'll just contribute to the problem."

"If you can stay indoors, you're going to help protect your health because you're not going to be breathing in that the ozone," she continued.

Dr. Prunicki said it would be worthwhile to understand how you contribute and how you can help prevent the problem.

For Tuesday's threat of increased smog, Richardson told ABC7 News, "It's an asthma trigger. It can irritate the lungs, cause coughing. If you have preexisting conditions, it can cause problems for you. So that's really the primary concern with ozone."

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