In my mind, an elderly woman with degenerative heart disease sat in her living room in Lamont yesterday afternoon with the windows open and a swamp cooler pushing moist cool air through the room and out the open door. She felt very tired. She dozed off and died a few hours later. Her brain simply stopped getting the oxygen it needed because the few alveoli left in her lungs were red and swollen from the high levels of ozone pollution in the area.
Her death certificate does not list the cause of death as air pollution. In fact, there was not even a violation of any ozone standard recorded in the San Joaquin Valley yesterday.
Unfortunately, the air board removed the monitor in 2010 that would have warned people like this woman about the danger of having the windows open yesterday. Had she known about the ozone violation that was searing her lungs she could have turned on the air conditioner with the high tech filter her son had given her.
One of the more callous actions of our Air Board in recent years was to remove the Bear Mtn air monitor in Arvin. That monitor had recorded the highest ozone levels in the valley for nearly 20 years. It showed that the Arvin area would be doomed to bad air for many years longer than most other areas in the valley. Because of the bad air in Arvin the rest of the valley was being forced to do more to reduce the pollution that drifted into the Arvin area.
The air board replaced the Bear Mtn monitor with a different monitor they called Di Giorgio. They put it in a different location where the pollution levels were significantly lower. As a result, people in areas such as Lamont and Arvin today no longer know the true levels of air pollution they are breathing. What really matters to the air board is that big industrial polluters no longer have to do as much to reduce their harmful emissions.
Yesterday was similar to the many days in August of 2010 shown in the graph below when both the old and the new monitors ran simultaneously. On 15 occasions that month the new monitor said the air was fine and the old one recorded a violation.