Bay Area’s 3 largest cities see major increase in smoky air quality days: report

Bay Area

Smoke rises from the Dixie Fire burning along Highway 70 in Plumas National Forest, Calif., on Friday, July 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The Bay Area’s three largest cities are among the major cities that recorded a ‘significant increase’ in days with unhealthy smoky air in recent years, according to an analysis.

The report by NPR’s California Newsroom and Stanford University’s Environmental Change and Human Outcomes Lab looked at over 10 years of data and found that smoke days increased across the country – even far east.

Within the state, San Jose had the biggest jump in smoke exposure days from 2016-2020, compared to data from 2009-2013, according to the analysis.

It was up by over 400% – roughly equating to an average of 45 days per year where there was unhealthy smoky air in the South Bay city. San Jose used to have fewer than 10 smoky days per year, the data showed.

The report said Oakland and San Francisco also had a significant increase in smoky days, with Oakland leading with the most days.

However, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco’s average number of smoky days were all in close range to each other, in the mid-40’s.

The Bay Area’s neighboring major city, Sacramento, took the top spot for most smoky days from 2016-2020. It more than doubled from the previous years.

The years analyzed by NPR and Stanford also coincide with record-breaking wildfires, and it’s not getting any better. Already in 2021, wildfires have burned thousands more acres in California compared to the same time, previous year.

Three of the top five largest state wildfires happened in 2020 – the August Complex, SCU Lightning Complex and Creek fires, respectively. 2018’s Mendocino Complex fire and the Dixie Fire this year round out the top five.

“The suggestion of patterns across the last two decades in the West is deeply unsettling and worrisome: hotter, bigger, more fires,” USC professor Bill Deverell told The Associated Press.

According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, air pollution particularly impacts children, pregnant women, seniors and people with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions.

It’s even worse when that’s combined with people who are low-income and in minority communities, due to limited access to health care and additional social, economic, and environmental stressors, the BAAQMD said.

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