California Air Monitoring Network Assessment: Current Network Adequate, Neighborhood Monitoring Recommended
SACRAMENTO -- The state's air monitoring network adequately reflects health impacts on children and infants, reports the California Air Resources Board (ARB). A review of the network was done as part of Children's Environmental Health Protection Act (Senate Bill 25, Escutia, 1999).
"We are pleased that the assessment shows the network adequate to detect health threats to children, and the suggested improvements will make it better. Still, more needs to be done to assess air pollution impacts on children in local communities," said ARB Chairman, Dr. Alan Lloyd.
California's air monitoring network provides the fundamental data needed to accurately determine the health risk to children and infants from outdoor air. The ARB suggests that the current monitoring network be supplemented with additional methods to assess community exposures at a localized level.
The ARB was required, as part of the Children's Environmental Health Protection Act, to evaluate California's air monitoring network, review the state's air quality standards, and to identify further air toxic control measures to protect children's health.
As part of the assessment, six community schools were selected based on likely impacts from various local air pollution sources and to reflect the diversity found in California's communities. Air samples taken in these communities were used to determine if current monitoring sites capture children's exposure to air pollution. The communities studied were Barrio Logan (San Diego), Crockett (Contra Costa County), Fruitvale (Oakland), Fresno (Central Valley) and Wilmington and Boyle Heights (both in greater Los Angeles). Results from the special monitoring done at the six school sites showed that pollution levels on campus did not significantly deviate from levels seen at the existing routine monitoring sites.
Suggested methods for improving local air monitoring include:
- Use routine monitoring data together with special purpose monitoring data collected near air pollution sources in communities.
- Combine air quality modeling and network monitoring data.
- Apply air quality models and emissions information to help identify localized exposures.
- Conduct short-term special purpose assessments using mobile monitoring capability in order to supplement statewide monitoring data.
- Assess localized exposures near air pollution sources through improvements in emission estimates and air quality modeling. and
- Fund development of lower-cost monitoring methods to expand community-level monitoring via the ARB's Innovative Clean Air Technologies (ICAT) Program.
The state's monitoring network, one of the most extensive in the world, consists of over 250 sites where air pollution samples are taken and pollutant levels are recorded. The monitoring network is key in assessing the state's clean air progress and in determining pollutant exposures. Though California has made great strides in air pollution control, more than 90 percent of Californians still sometimes breathe unhealthy air.
In 2000, the ARB, with guidance from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, determined that state air quality standards for particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide were inadequate. Since that time the Board has revised the particulate matter standard and staff is working on presenting the Board with changes to the ozone and nitrogenoxide standards. The ARB is also in the process of identifying further measures to protect infants and children from toxic air contaminants.
Infants and children are especially vulnerable to air pollutants. Increased respiratory ailments, such as asthma, cough and temporarily reduced lung function, can be the result of short-term pollutant exposures. Health effects from long-term exposures may include more serious illnesses, including increased risk for bronchitis and pneumonia. Recent studies link air pollution exposures to increased infant mortality, low birth weight, premature birth and birth defects.