(Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner)

(Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner)

Soot City: Bay Area enters 11th straight Spare the Air day

The hazy, soot-filled air that has sullied the San Francisco skyline for more than a week, while enhancing the beauty of sunsets over the Pacific Ocean, has also set a record.

For the past 11 days, the air has been so dirty that the Bay Area’s air-monitoring body has issued warnings to the public. That’s the longest stretch of consecutive Spare the Air days.

“It is unprecedented to have 10 in a row like this,” said Aaron Richardson, spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, on Tuesday before the 11th day of Spare the Air alerts was declared. “It actually doubled the previous record for consecutive days.”

Those warnings — which were first issued in 1991 — are announced whenever the amount of small particles in the air reaches a threshold the federal government has deemed unhealthy.

While pollution from industry, wood smoke, automobiles and other sources is never good for human health, these elevated levels can be especially bad for people with breathing problems.

The alert — which warns healthy people to refrain from exercising and people with respiratory illnesses to stay indoors — also restricts the use of wood-burning stoves.

The air, Richardson said, is as bad this week as in past years when forest fires brought unhealthy levels of soot to the area.

“We’ve just had this really long, gross and dirty and stagnant stretch where there’s been an inversion layer trapping the air near the surface like a smoky room,” he said.

So far this winter season, which runs from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28, there have been 14 Spare the Air days. Last year, there were only 10, while in winter 2006, for instance, there were 30.

San Francisco usually has better air quality than the rest of the Bay Area because of the prevailing onshore winds from the Pacific, but there has been little of that wind in the past week.

As for the fire at a San Mateo County recycling plant early Tuesday, it has mostly just made the already bad air in the South Bay worse.

While several hospitals contacted by The San Francisco Examiner did not say they were seeing an increased number of patients with respiratory illnesses, air pollution impacts people with lung illnesses as well as cardiovascular issues.

A weather system is forecast to move into the area later this week and is expected to clear out the stagnant air over San Francisco.

Air pollution

• 1.4 million: Wood-burning stoves in the Bay Area

• 30 percent: Amount of air pollution created by those stoves

• P.M. 2.5: Particulate matter size, which has a particular impact on public health; 35 micrograms per cubic meter in a 24-hour period triggers a Spare the Air dayair pollutionBay Area Air Quality Management DistrictBay Area NewsSpare the Air

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

After the pandemic hit, Twin Peaks Boulevard was closed to vehicle traffic, a situation lauded by open space advocates. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
New proposal to partially reopen Twin Peaks to vehicles pleases no one

Neighbors say closure brought crime into residential streets, while advocates seek more open space

Members of the Sheriff’s Department command staff wore masks at a swearing-in ceremony for Assistant Sheriff Tanzanika Carter. One attendee later tested positive. 
Courtesy SFSD
Sheriff sees increase in COVID-19 cases as 3 captains test positive

Command staff among 10 infected members in past week

Rainy weather is expected in the coming week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Rainstorms, potential atmospheric river expected to drench Bay Area in coming week

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation Multiple rainstorms, cold temperatures some… Continue reading

U.S. Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s powerful reading was among the highlights of Inauguration Day. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Inauguration shines light in this never-ending shade

Here’s to renewal and resolve in 2021 and beyond

Lowell High School is considered an academically elite public school. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Students denounce ‘rampant, unchecked racism’ at Lowell after slurs flood anti-racism lesson

A lesson on anti-racism at Lowell High School on Wednesday was bombarded… Continue reading

Most Read