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Exposure to Air Pollutants and Its Association with Respiratory Illness and Asthma

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 2813 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Title:  Exposure to air pollutants in the San Joaquin Valley and its association with respiratory illness and asthma


 San Joaquin Valleyresidents are constantly exposed to air pollutants that can cause many health related problems such as respiratory illnesses and asthma. The objectives of my research are to first identify the sources that are exposing harmful air pollution. Secondly, to identify the toxic substance that are causing the air pollution. Third, to identify the harmful effects of air pollution on the human body. Lastly, analyzing scholarly journals, specifically about air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley, I will determine the correlation between specific air pollutants and respiratory illnesses and their effects in this region.

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 The San Joaquin Valley (SJV) population has adverse health effects and health risk from exposure to the invisible hazardous air pollutants. There is no single person from the SJV who is not exposed to the air pollution. People of all age groups have some type of health risk. High numbers of folks from the SJV seek relief and treatment at the hospital or Emergency Department (ED) from the air pollution that lingers in the region. The SJV is located in the heart of California with the population over 4 million (Ngo et al.2010). It is characterize as a flat terrain lying below 400 feet in elevation with eight counties Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare. Bordered by three mountains the California Coastal ranges, Sierra Nevada, and the Tehachapi Mountains creates air quality in this region to be very unhealthy because air pollution are trapped in the valley from every season. These counties are the agricultural center of the state and produces majority of the nations vegetables and fruits.  Agricultural productivity contributes more air pollution to the valley. Air pollution also flows in from other parts of the state like the Bay area and uncontrolled wildfires. The constant mobile sources air pollution from traffic driving along Interstate 5 and Highway 99 and the stationary sources generates even more pollutants to the SJV.

Methods & Materials

 These are the reference research methods and materials. One was studying 315 children with asthma and wheezing from Fresno and Clovis during November 2000 to April 2005. The study design uses ambient measurements from California Air Resources Board (CARB) and used statistical analysis (Mann et al.2010). The second was a sample studying 744 residents from the SJV who answered a survey during November 2014 to January 2015 from CARB, also statistical analysis statistical significance at the p < .05 level. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS 20 (Cisneros et al.2017). The third was an environmental health analysis methodology that contains a cumulative environmental hazard index, social vulnerability index, and a health index with rankings from 0-1 for vulnerability to each index, and using information from US EPA, CARB, California Department of Toxic Substance Control, and California Department of Pesticide Regulation, American Community Survey (Huang and London 2012). The fourth was studying 1502 SJV individuals from California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) during November 2000- September 2001, an exposure assessment from CARB and statistical methods used logistic regressions to assess links between air pollution and asthma disease (Meng et al.2010).  The fifth used an emission inventory, meteorology and air quality modeling that created SJV climates, andcontrol strategies to eliminate PM2.5 emissions by year 2030 (Hixson et al.2012). The last study was a climate-controlled trailer exposing young rats 10-12 weeks old to ambient particulate-matter to see the impacts on human health in the SJV (Ngo et al.2010).


 The first research was for the periods of (October to February) which is the cold season the air pollutants  Nitrogen Dioxide NO2, NO3, Particulate Matter PM2.5 peaked in the Fresno and Clovis area and the daily concentration of PM2.5 was more than the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) 24-hr standard/m3of 35 µg. During the periods of (April to October) which are the warm season these air pollutants Ozone O3, PM10, PM2.5 peaked and 32% of O3 concentrations were at or more than the current NAAQS 8-hr standard of 75 ppb. and the NO2 were lower than the 53 ppb NAAQS standard for the whole study (Mann et al.2010). These are the results for children who had association with air pollutions 49 children studied had allergies to cat dander, 85 children had allergies to fungi, and 47 boys with mild asthma (Mann et al.2010).


 The second research is the result of perception that participants have on air pollution quality in the SJV. The participant and characteristics are mostly 63% female and 51% 40 years of age and older, and most felt the exposure to Particulate Matter PM2.5 was a medium level 75% and a high level 19% (Cisneros et al.2017).  Only 64% view the air quality as being moderate and unhealthy and those who felt they were exposed to a lot of PM2.5 felt the air quality was bad(Cisneros et al.2017). The perception of seriousness problems in the SJV did not have air quality in the top three instead it was unemployment, crime, and obesity, and the sources of air pollution from the participants are cars and were trucks, windblown dust, and factories.

 The third research is from the correlation from the cumulative environmental hazard index,  the social vulnerability index, and the health index. Each index were at the 99% confidence level, with a coefficient of 0.296 and 0.092(Huang and London 2012). Very high concentrated populations are more vulnerable to environmental hazards and health risk. People regardless of their race or ethnicity whose socioeconomic status are low income and poor are most vulnerable to environmental and health risk.

 The fourth research shows a 25.7% of prevalence with asthma in the SJV and they were from individuals 65 years and older, currently uninsured individuals, and people who delayed care for asthma(Meng et al.2010). There was a prevalence of 9.2% for asthma related emergency department (ED) or hospital visit in the past twelve months from the  highest prevalence from children under 17 years of age, from the race and ethnicity groups of Latino, Asian/other, African-American, people from lower-income groups, and people who delayed care for asthma(Meng et al.2010). The annual average air pollutant O3 was definitely correlated with PM10 and PM2.5 there was no associated with NO2 and CO. The final results on air pollutants were only on O3, PM10, and PM2.5. From the models there was a 23% increase in O3 (95% CI 0.94 to 1.60), a 29% increase per 10ug/m3 for PM10 (95% CI 1.05 to 1.57), and a 82% increase per 10 ug/m3 for PM2.5(95% CI 1.11 to 2.98) (Meng et al.2010). ED visit among children was a 63% spike to the three air pollutants but in adults there was a 40% spike to the three air pollutants, also adults seen at the ED jumped for 30% to 60% to the air pollutants (Meng et al.2010).

   The fifth research is the predicted PM2.5concentration for 2030. A growing population means an increase in air pollution from traffic-related pollutants. Increasing vehicles traveling along Interstate 5 and Highway 99 brings more emissions adds to the massive air quality issues. Uncontrolled wildfires generate a great amount of pollutants Carbon Monoxide CO, Nitrogen Dioxide NOx, and Volatile organic compounds VOCs  making it harmful to the air quality. Control strategies were made for projection for 2030 SJV PM levels. Control C1 eliminates all emission from residential wood burning. Decrease of wood burning is because fuel consumption from home heating with higher density. Control C2 eliminated 90% of PM2.5 and 90% VOC from activities having to do with commercial meat cooking (Hixson et al.2012). Food cooking concentration increased when more people lived closer to the cooking manufactures. Control C3 diesel combustion PM to decline by 90% (Hixson et al.2012).  As people, travel more to get to where they needed such as work or school the consumption for diesel increase. Control C4 the agricultural dust will be reduce by 33% and dairy emission by 17% (Hixson et al.2012). 

 The sixth research result from the experiments shows no increases of lung cells

recovered from the rats showing there’s no immune cells from the blood to the lungs from inhaled particles(Ngo et al.2010). One experiment shows lungs with an increase in cells with exposure to fine and ultrafine particles. The results shows an  increase in interleukin in the lungs of the experimented rats who are being expose to the particles. Having a little exposure to concentrated air particles can give an increase in interleukin-6 (IL-6), a proinflammatory cytokine. Inhaled particles can affect the nonrespiratory organ like the central nervous system. Agricultural production is responsible for the regions’ air pollution especially when farmer used to burn regularly when planting season ended it added more particulate matter for the region.



 The first research, found increase of  NO2 and PM10 and PM2.5 are connected to the risk of wheeze the boys studied who has asthma. Boys with asthma had an increase to wheeze and exposures to these air pollutants NO2, PM2.5, EC, NO3, PM10 and PM2.5.  The air pollutant O3 was not greatly associated with wheezes in the analyses. In Fresno and Clovis, the main source for the air pollutant was NO2 this is a traffic-related pollution. The air pollutant NO2 can harmfully affect a child’s health especially if they are asthmatic. Exposure to NO2 increases the chance of bronchoconstrictor reaction to breathe in aeroallergen. Traffic related air pollution was one of the cause’s asthma, nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Young children diagnosis with this asthma disease may also have other respiratory illness such as bronchitis, and lung damage.


 The second research is the discussion of perception that participants have on air pollution quality in the SJV. The participants felt air pollution were really bad when the air pollution exposure levels was really high. The participants were asked to rank air pollution to other problems in the SJV air pollution was fourth on the list of seven (Cisneros et al.2017). The participant felt that the air pollution sources were from cares and truck but not agriculture emissions. Forest Fires was sixth as a serious concern for the SJV as the listed problems (Cisneros et al.2017).


 The third research indicates that combining the three index indicators that measure the environmental, social, and health conditions gives an understanding of the population that are most in need and shows the disproportion in care they receive. The result gives an understanding of the experiences that the most vulnerable populations live. Those who are low income and poor face more health and environmental risk. Through collaborative partnerships from the public environmental, environmental justice advocates, and health agencies the most vulnerable will get the help that it needs for the people from the SJV communities.



 The fourth research shows the air pollutant O3, PM10 and PM2.5 in the SJV has health effects on the people in the SJV region who have asthma. The toxic substances found in the San Joaquin Valley are among those listed in the EPA regulated Criteria air pollutants. The five outdoor air pollutants in the San Joaquin Valley are (CO, NO2, O3, PM10, and PM25). The primary air pollutants known to cause asthma and other respiratory illness are ozone O3 and particulate matter PM2.5. The secondary air pollutant found in the San Joaquin Valley are mostly during the hot spring and summer is smog. Theses air pollutants O3, PM10, and PM2.5 annual average concentrations are link to people who reported asthma symptoms or had ED visits for asthma symptoms. Children and adults show sign of having asthma issues the CHIS and air monitoring helps document it. The research can help in combating air pollution with the result found.

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 The fifth research showsdiesel particle filter (DPF) will not increase NO2 or NOX emission standard for 2030 because regulation will be placed to reduce them already. The study was ran twice, the first to remove PM 2.5, and the second was to remove PM and increase the ratio of NO2 and NOx 0.1-3.5 (Hixson et al.2012). Increasing the NO2 and NOx emission will results in an increase of particle nitrate by 1% for population and 6.8% in the regional. When population increase near major roadways the projection of growth increase for people and PM2.5.


 The sixth research, the seasonal changes in air particle mass and shows some markers of inflammation and cell viability. This experiment provides an insight of how particulate matter (PM) affects the San Joaquin Valley and the health for the agricultural workers and residents who calls that region home. Most tests will be done in the future to learn more on longer exposure to OM to mimic the exposure the SJV agriculture workers and residents endure. The future focus will be on the seasonal difference of PM in the SJV and the health effect it causes.


 In conclusion, through the use of scholarly research there is a definite correlation between the San Joaquin Valley exposure to air pollutants and health related problems such as respiratory illnesses and asthma disease to its population. Evidence from different researches shows that PM10, PM2.5, O3, NO2, and CO are the main pollutants for asthma disease and cause respiratory illnesses. Air quality is a big issue in the SJV and the people in the valley must be more educated to the serious health risk that it brings to everyone off all age, sex, and race.

 To improve the SJV air quality, we must know the exact air pollutants and its source that are causing the air pollution in order to reduce it. The public and our state and federal government must work together to fight against the invisible harmful hazard and to develop more laws and regulations to combat it.


  • Cisneros R, Brown P, Cameron L, Gaab E, Gonzalez M, Ramondt S, Veloz D, Song A, Schweizer D. 2017. Understanding Public Views about Air Quality and Air Pollution Sources in the San Joaquin Valley, California. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2017, 4535142:1-7.
  • Hixson M, Mahmud A, Hu J, Kleeman MJ. 2012. Resolving the interactions between population density and air pollution emissions controls in the San Joaquin Valley, USA. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 62(5): 566-575.
  • Huang G,  London J. 2012. Mapping Cumulative Environmental Effects, Social Vulnerability, and Health in the San Joaquin Valley, California. American Journal of Public Health 102(5):830-832.
  • Mann JK, Balmes JR, Bruckner TA, Mortimer KM, Margolis HG, Pratt B, Hammond SK, Lurmann FW, Tager IB. 2010. Short-Term Effects of Air Pollution on Wheeze in Asthmatic Children in Fresno, California. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(10):1497–1502.
  • Meng Y, Rull RP, Wilhelm M, Lombardi C, Balmes J, Ritz B. 2010. Outdoor air pollution and uncontrolled asthma in the San Joaquin Valley, California. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 64(2):142-147.
  • Ngo M, Pinkerton K, Freeland S, Geller M, Ham W, Cliff S, Hopkins L, Kleeman M, Kodavanti U, Meharg E, Plummer L, Recendez J, Schenker M, Sioutas C, Smiley-Jewell S, Haas C, Gutstein J, Wexler A. 2010. Airborne particles in the San Joaquin Valley may affect human health. California Agriculture 64(1):12-16.




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