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Smog in SLO Town

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Record-breaking temperatures in San Luis Obispo created record-breaking smog on June 19 and 20, according to air quality officials.

For the first time ever, a monitoring station showed, on June 19, that the air in SLO violated federal air pollution standards for ozone, a type of smog that can cause health problems, especially for children and the elderly, Air Pollution Control Officer Larry Allen said.

Ozone is created from “volatile organic compounds” in the presence of sunlight.

“Because we had low inversion levels, no winds, and hot temperatures to cook the stuff, it was like putting all the emissions in a box, where they just concentrated,” Allen said.

During the heat wave, ozone standards were also violated in Morro Bay and Nipomo.

Cars are one of the main culprits, even parked cars, because hydrocarbons evaporate out of the fuel tank, he noted.

“Park in the shade, and plant more trees,” Allen recommended as a way to prevent future smog problems. He also suggested combining errands into one trip and buying local products.

Smoke and ashes from forest fires in Monterey County are also causing health concerns, with the SLO County Air Pollution Control District recommending that local residents reduce or avoid outdoor exercise.

“Our bodies have no mechanism for blocking those particulates from getting into our lungs, which can cause irreparable damage to health long-term,” Allen noted.

If the air is so smoky that you can’t see more than 2.5 miles, that’s a cause for concern, he explained. If, for example, you can’t see Bishop Peak from the Fremont Theatre in downtown SLO—2.5 miles away—the air is “unhealthy.” If you can’t see Cerro San Luis, just 1.5 miles away, the air is “very unhealthy,” especially for people with heart or lung disease, children, and older people, Allen said.

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