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County ozone concerns mount

At next Tuesday’s Grass Valley City Council meeting, a group of residents will propose a regional summit with local and state officials addressing the health effects of ozone in the foothill region.

It is the latest attempt by some residents to address the growing concern about high ozone levels during certain times of the year, largely stemming from pollution created by Sacramento traffic that blows up into the foothills.

“The Grass Valley City Council is taking a position on ozone with a series of action steps that will put the city in the center of the conversation,” local air quality activist Shawn Garvey said. It “includes a regional summit with local and state elected officials and an endorsement of the American Lung Association’s legislative priorities plan.”



Garvey helped organize a meeting Monday in which about 125 parents packed a Grass Valley hall to learn ways to keep their children safe on days when the ozone levels are high.

“There were a lot of questions. It went on for two hours,” said Jan Tippet, an asthma educator who works at Dr. Michael McCormick’s Grass Valley medical office and answered questions at the meeting.




The group Save the Air in Nevada County organized the meeting in response to a growing number of parents concerned about air quality.

Limit strenuous activity

The American Lung Association ranked Nevada County 13th in the nation for high ozone levels earlier this year. The number of children with asthma in the county is higher than state and national averages.

“It’s a concern because we don’t really know for sure who is affected by ozone,” Tippit said. Genetics and a predisposition to the disorder also play roles in developing the respiratory condition.

About 6.5 million children nationally have been diagnosed with asthma, Tippit said. A study by the First Five Family and Children’s Commission found that one in six children had asthma in Nevada County.

Ozone can irritate the microscopic hairs known as cilia that line the airways in the lungs, she said.

“When these cilia are damaged you have a lot of inflammation in your lungs,” Tippit explained. When children exercise, they breathe much faster than adults and as a result take in more polluted air.

Telling parents to stay indoors isn’t very realistic, according to some experts.

“That’s very easy to say and not very easy to do,” Tippit said. She said parents can limit strenuous activity such as soccer practice to morning hours when ozone levels are typically at their lowest. Investing in an air filtration system may also help, Tippit said.

“We gave them as much information as we could. I wish we had more answers and I wish we had better answers.”

Air cleaner lately

Lower-than-average summer temperatures has kept the air cleaner than normal this year.

Since May, five high ozone level days that exceeded healthy levels for sensitive individuals have occurred, said Joe Fish of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District. By contrast, nine days exceeded federal standards in July 2006.

“We’ve only had one bad air quality day in July. That’s unusual. July is usually brutal, unrelenting heat,” said Fish, who also spoke at the meeting.

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To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

Symptoms of Asthma

• Complaints of shortness of breath

• Coughing

• Wheezing

• Dizziness

• Stuffiness

• Lethargy

• Bronchitus-type symptoms

Source: Jan Tippet, asthma educator


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