The Valley Air District will help low-income households weather wildfires that are ramping up due to dry conditions made worse by the continuing drought.
The agency will make 1,500 portable residential air purifying units with one replacement filter available for free to low-income households within disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquín Valley.
Turlock meets the definition of being a disadvantaged community.
Dubbed the “Clean Airs Pilot Program,” it involves residential versions of portable air purifiers. The purifiers — besides reducing the spreading of COVID, flu and even germs that cause colds — are designed to cleanse the air of smoke and other particles.
“Smoke from severe wildfires can inundate the Valley and make its way into homes, causing health impacts to our most vulnerable residents,” noted Samir Sheikh, Executive Director of the Valley Air District. “This program is designed to help families who may not otherwise be able to buy an in-home air purifier to protect their families during wildfires.”
In an indoor environment where windows and doors are closed and sealed tightly, HEPA air filtration devices, such as those that will be offered under this program, can reduce particulate matter indoors by more than 90 percent.
Use of air filtration devices to create “clean air rooms,” such as a bedroom, will ensure that the home has a dedicated space with safe indoor air quality during smoke events.
The 10 worst metro areas in the nation for air quality issues include Central Valley counties such as Bakersfield, Kern, Madera, Sacramento, Shasta and Butte.
Stanislaus County received a big red “F” on its report card in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2022 report. The region is also ranked amongst the most polluted in the country. The San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland region — which includes all of Stanislaus County — made the top 5 list for worst air quality in the nation in the year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution categories and in the top 15 list of worst regions for ozone.
Residents experiencing poor air quality due to wildfire smoke should move to a filtered, air-conditioned environment with windows closed. Common cloth and paper masks being used as protection from COVID-19 may not be sufficient protection from wildfire smoke inhalation.
For outdoor workers and other individuals that may not be able to remain indoors, state health authorities recommend the use of N95 facemasks as feasible.
Free air purifiers will be made available soon to low-income households. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or speak to Air District staff, call 559-230-5800.
— Kristina Hacker contributed to this report.