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Air Pollution in San Joaquin Valley

Poor air quality affects the economy of the region, the public health sector, and the people of the affected area, so air pollution has become a global concern. San Joaquin, according to reports, is one of the most well-known regions with the most inadequate air quality. According to the report, the area was classified as extreme nonattainment for the 1-hour national ambient air quality standard for ozone in 2003. According to reports, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) was aware of the deterioration in air quality in the San Joaquin Valley. They listed growth as a significant factor to consider when determining the region's air quality. As a result, the board advised residents to use locally grown agricultural products. The two main types of air pollution mainly experienced in San Joaquin region are ozone pollution and particulate matter pollution. Ozone pollution occurs when contaminants released from passengers cars, chemical plants, power plants and industrial boilers chemically react in the presence of sunlight with other sources. This occurs at the lower ground level. On the other hand, particulate matter pollution as a result of inhaling a combination of extremely small particles and liquid droplets present in air causing serious cardiac and respiratory diseases. Therefore, the main objective of this topic is to determine the causes, impacts and mitigation strategies on air pollution in San Joaquin Valley.
Analysis of the Topic
Sources and Variation of Pollutants
According to Cisneros et al. (2017), there are different sources both for ozone pollution and particulate matter pollution. To begin with, the main sources for ozone layer pollution result from products of the chemical reaction between the nitrogen oxides (NOx) and the reactive organic gases (ROG). They are classified into three namely; stationary, area and mobile. The pumps used for irrigation, facilities producing petroleum and the waste lagoons are examples of stationary sources. They were the main source known to release ROG. The area sources include the agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, farming operations, industrial wastes and paints which also emit ROG. Finally, the mobile sources comprise of heavy-duty trucks, passenger cars, buses and light trucks and they are the main source of oxides of nitrogen. The levels of Ozone vary with the season of the year. For San Joaquin valley, Ozone levels occur diurnally with different concentration yearly.
Similarly, sources of particulate matter pollution are grouped into primary and secondary particulate matter pollution. Primary particulate matter is when the particles are released directly whereas secondary particulate matter occur as a result of chemical reaction taking place in the air. Example of primary particulate matter include; vehicle soot, smoke, dust from roads and agricultural waste burnings which mostly dominate during downfalls and summer time seasons. Secondary particulate matter which occur following a number of reactions including sulfur oxides (SOx), NOx, ROG, and ammonia (NH3) and these dominate mostly during winter season. However, there are two types of particle pollution namely; PM2.5 also known as fine particles which are often released from wood stoves and firewood and PM10 (Course particles) which are larger than the PM2.5 in diameter. These are emitted from dust both from industries and from roads. The PM2.5 is the worst among the two as it can travel to extreme ends of the airway pathway and thus is liable to causing dangerous and serious diseases. The level of particulate matters vary depending on the season, and thus it exhibits seasonal variation. During summer, the level of PM is high as compared to winter period.
Reasons for Poor Ranking of Air Quality
Additionally, there are a series of reasons contributing to poor ranking of air quality in San Joaquin valley. Firstly, the region has experienced an increase in population over the past two decades. This has led to increase in mobile sources of pollution as there has been an increase in ratio of people to vehicles voyaged. Secondly, the region has also been turned into garbage dumping site from the industries within and around the region, the large agricultural practices in the region and waste disposal from over 3.5million residents. The debris get stuck in the valley by an inversion layer of warm air. Lastly, cutting down and clearing of bushes by farmers at the end of the season contributed to several causes of presence of harmful particles in the atmosphere. These particles are directly or indirectly inhaled by humans which has led to deterioration of most residents’ health status (Yap & Garcia, 2015).
Impacts of Air Pollution
Furthermore, there are various impacts that can result from air pollution including impacts on health, social, economic and climate change. To begin with, economy of a country mostly depends on various activities carried out in that particular country. For instance, in San Joaquin region, agriculture is the main source of income and employment (Larsen, Gaines, & Deschênes, 2017). As a result of acidic rainfall, this leads to destruction to the soil which will consequently lead to death of plants, aquatic animals and other wild animals. Also, spillage of petroleum to water bodies and to soil affects agricultural activities. The petroleum acts as a block whereby oxygen which is essential for living is blocked from penetrating the water body hence the aquatic animals die due to lack of oxygen and this lowers the economy of the region. Therefore, agriculture being the main source of employment to residents of San Joaquin region, most of them will be left unemployed. For instance, death of aquatic animals will be a big loss to the fishermen. Similarly, those who grew crops will have low yields as a result of poor soil texture. Also, due to destroyed park vegetation, the national parks will start experiencing low tourists turnout and off course this greatly affects the economy of the region. To add on that, tourists will as well limit their visit to the park due to fear of their health. Lastly, economy can be affected as a result of poor transportation. Motor vehicles are the major means of transport in San Joaquin Valley and these motor vehicles emit oxides of nitrogen which is a great pollutant of the air. Therefore, transport plays a role in air pollution thus reducing the productivity of the region hence affecting its economy (Padula et al., 2013).
More so, air pollution has affected the climate changes in San Joaquin Valley in different ways. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide released from exhaust of motor vehicles which trap warm air from sunlight in the globes atmosphere is of great concern. Increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment affects the plant as it makes it retain much heat than expected and minimize its ability to loss water to the environment. The increase in atmospheric temperature leads to what is known as global warming. Additionally, when nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide combine with atmospheric vapor they form acidic rain which has a significant effect on water bodies especially on the survival of fish and other various wild animals.
Also, in San Joaquin region, the health of most of the residents have been compromised following the impacts of air pollution. Exposure to pollutants over a prolonged period of time contribute to ones heath deterioration. The respiratory and the cardiac systems are the most affected systems (Padula et al. 2013). Normally, humans inspire oxygen and expire carbon dioxide. Therefore people living in polluted environment have no alternative other than breathe the polluted air. The polluted air comprises of dangerous gases like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide as well as particulate matter which when inhaled cause harm to the body tissues. Some of these particles are small in size hence when inhaled they are taken directly to the smallest part of the lung, the alveoli. The alveoli will be unable to effectively carry out its function of gaseous exchange and this will lead to respiratory failure. Air pollution can aggravate diseases like chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema which are a threat to human health. Again, pollution of the air can compromise with the human heart leading to irregular heartbeat, stroke or even death. Similarly, destruction in lung tissue as well as alteration in functioning of the lung can occur. As a result, the defense mechanism for the respiratory system is decreased and for that matter the lung becomes an obvious target for most diseases. Premature death has been reported in San Joaquin region as a result of early destruction of the lung. In children, chronic respiratory illnesses have been documented and because a children’s lung tissues are immature and weak as well as their defense mechanism against infections, fighting the illnesses becomes a great challenge to them. This is the reason for early childhood mortality in that region. Also, lung damage increases lung permeability hence harmful particles are easily trapped in the airway pathway leading to symptoms like frequent coughing. Just like a chronic cigarette smoker’s lung, the lung of a person living in an air polluted environment ages so fast as compared to the lung of a person living in a healthy environment. Additionally, when people who are already suffering from a lung disease get exposed to air that is contaminated, their condition worsen. Substances like dust or smoke act like aggravating factors to their conditions. Finally, exposure to allergens in the polluted environment by people who get allergic reactions can stimulate them to get to anaphylactic shock which is dangerous and can lead to death. (Yap, & Garcia, 2015).
Socially, children from regions where air pollution is high are likely to be obese. This results from being confined indoors due to fear of exposure to the pollutants by parents. Also, these children are likely to grow antisocially. Contrary, adults have to move from one place to another for various reasons and are exposed to the polluted air, their health may deteriorate affecting their social life as most of their time will be spent in hospitals.
Mitigation Strategies
San Joaquin Valley has received support from different departments in the region to help fight the air pollution problem. EPA in conjunction with CARB implemented a strategy that limited burning of firewood and additional sources that emitted poisonous gases to the atmosphere. Additionally, EPA gave San Joaquin Valley cleaner locomotives that was meant to replace the use of vehicles that emitted poisonous gases to the air like the heavy-duty trucks although the tasks were not tampered with. Also, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Controlled District agreed with EPA to punish ,through fines and penalties, all companies that would go against the rule of properly installing strategies like thermal oxidizer meant to control pollution of air in that particular region. Furthermore, EPA sponsored a research taking place in Stanford Children’s Environment Health Center meant to determine the impacts of early child exposure to pollutants and incidences of asthma in the region. Similarly, damages associated with greenhouse gases release were fixed through manufacturing of condensation generators. To add on that, the surrounding community should be sensitized and encouraged to engage themselves in projects that ensures the environment is clean and favorable for human residence. Also, people should try and minimize the use of locomotives that emit pollutants to the environment by walking, use bicycles or use public means for transport. Choosing of cleaners that are friendly to the environment as well helps in control of air pollution.
To sum up, air pollution in San Joaquin Valley is the major problem that has contributed to residents’ poor health, deprivation in the region’s economic status and also several influences on global warming as well as social impacts. Research showed that cardiovascular and the respiratory systems are the most affected systems. The heart and the lungs perform a big role in supplying blood and oxygen to the rest of the body. Therefore when the two organs are compromised, the health of an individual deteriorates. As a result, the economy will be lowered as the rate at which people will start spending money will rise in comparison to their income on medication. Lack of employment has been reported among most residents due to collapse of agricultural activities. This greatly affects the socioeconomic status of an individual and the entire region. Strategies put in place to curb the problem of air pollution in San Joaquin Valley if strongly adhered will enhance reduction of pollution at that particular region.


Cisneros, R., Brown, P., Cameron, L., Gaab, E., Gonzalez, M., Ramondt, S., & Schweizer, D . (2017). Understanding Public Views about Air Quality and Air Pollution Sources in the San Joaquin Valley, California. Journal of environmental and public health, 2017.
Larsen, A. E., Gaines, S. D., & Deschênes, O. (2017). Agricultural pesticide use and adverse birth outcomes in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Nature Communications, 8(1), 302.
Meng, Y. Y., Rull, R. P., Wilhelm, M., Lombardi, C., Balmes, J., & Ritz, B. (2010). Outdoor air pollution and uncontrolled asthma in the San Joaquin Valley, California. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 64(2), 142-147.
Padula, A. M., Tager, I. B., Carmichael, S. L., Hammond, S. K., Lurmann, F., & Shaw, G. M. (2013). The association of ambient air pollution and traffic exposures with selected congenital anomalies in the San Joaquin Valley of California. American journal of epidemiology, 177(10), 1074-1085.
Yap, P. S., & Garcia, C. (2015). Effectiveness of residential wood-burning regulation on decreasing particulate matter levels and hospitalizations in the san Joaquin Valley air basin. American journal of public health, 105(4), 772-778.

August 09, 2021

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