Historically, the San Joaquin Valley is known as one of the most polluted air regions in the state—not to mention the country—due to its bowl shape that collects and holds emissions.
However, a recent study by the California Air Resources Board shows that SJ Valley hospital admissions have reduced for adults ages 65 and older. This correlates directly with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Rule 4901 that was fully implemented in 2003, according to the Air District.
The goal of the rule was to reduce PM2.5 (a term for particles in the air) and cardiovascular hospitalizations in the Valley air basin.
"ARB's research provides evidence that these 'check-before-you-burn' programs, combined with public education, are helping to reduce harmful wintertime air pollution and protect public health," said Mary D. Nichols.
Rule 4901 requires mandatory reduction of residential wood burning when air quality is forecast to be poor—an air quality index of 150 or greater during the wood burning season.
Poor air quality condition of the Valley is linked directly to health issues because when solid fuels (such as wood) are burned, PM2.5 is emitted and can penetrate deep into the lungs for serious health impacts.
The ARB study found that after the implementation of the winter wood burning restrictions in the San Joaquin Valley, the number of hospital admissions for all types of cardiovascular disease in adults 65 and older dropped by 7 percent basin-wide. ARB added that hospitalizations for ischemic heart disease (a specific type of cardiovascular disease often known as coronary artery disease) dropped by 16 percent basin-wide.
It is estimated that wood burning in the Valley contributes to 16 tons per day of smoke, soot and ash.
For more information about the Check Before You Burn program, visit valleyair.org.