The Valley Air District will help low-income households cope with wildfires that are intensifying due to dry conditions made worse by persistent drought.
The agency will make 1,500 portable residential air purification units with a replacement filter available free of charge to low-income households in disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquín Valley.
Turlock meets the definition of being a disadvantaged community.
Dubbed the “Clean Airs Pilot Program,” these are residential versions of portable air purifiers. Purifiers — in addition to reducing the spread of COVID, flu, and even cold-causing germs — are designed to clear the air of smoke and other particles.
“Smoke from severe wildfires can flood the valley and enter homes, impacting the health of our most vulnerable residents,” noted Valley Air District executive director Samir Sheikh. “This program is designed to help families who otherwise could not purchase a home air purifier to protect their family during wildfires.”
In an indoor environment where windows and doors are closed and sealed tightly, HEPA air filtration devices, such as those that will be offered through this program, can reduce indoor particulates by more than 90 %.
Using air filtration devices to create “clean air chamberssuch as a bedroom, will ensure that the home has a dedicated space with safe indoor air quality during smoke events.
The 10 worst metropolitan areas in the country for air quality issues include Central Valley counties such as Bakersfield, Kern, Madera, Sacramento, Shasta and Butte.
Stanislaus County received a large red “F” on its report card in the American Lung Association’s 2022 State of the Air report. The region is also ranked among the most polluted in the country. The San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland area – which includes all of Stanislaus County – was in the top 5 worst air quality in the nation in the categories of year-round particulate pollution and air pollution. short-term particles and in the top 15 worst regions for ozone.
Residents with poor air quality from wildfire smoke should move to a filtered, air-conditioned environment with windows closed. Common cloth and paper masks used as protection against COVID-19 may not be sufficient protection against inhaling wildfire smoke.
For outdoor workers and others who cannot stay indoors, state health officials recommend the use of N95 masks whenever possible.
Free air purifiers will soon be made available to low-income households. For more information, email: [email protected], or speak to Air District staff, call 559-230-5800.
— Kristina Hacker contributed to this report.