Monday, July 20, 2009

lost in the ozone again

looking down at the south fork of the yuba river from the old bridge on hiway 49. there are hundreds of deep spots like this along this stretch of the river.

our trip to nevada county, in the foothills of the sierra nevada mountains east of sacramento, turned out well. we braved high temps (for us) and didn't wilt; at least not entirely. we liked the twin cities of grass valley and nevada city, 4 miles apart. both of those are at least a thousand feet higher in elevation than where we stayed with my sister in penn valley. the higher places are cooler, so that's where we are focussing our search for a home. our wonderful friend and agent here referred us to an agent up there who suits us fine. we will go again soon with arrangements to see several houses. if we find the right one we'll have to actually decide whether to live there. and then go through the real estate purchase maze. our agent, wonderfully complete in her flow of local info, told us that we should check out ozone air quality problems. she also directed us to the swimming area in the yuba river, pictured above.

we found out that there are "spare the air days" in the area sometimes, due to ground level ozone, which is produced by the action of sunlight on the pollutants from vehicles and industry. hmmmmmm. a colorless and odorless gas, toxic to flora and fauna. hey! we're fauna! how toxic? the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District website shows 5 levels of danger, progressing from good through moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, and unhealthy to very unhealthy. click on the map to get an animated map of the ozone contamination over time each day.

from the website mynevadacounty, under environment/air:
"As ozone damages our delicate lung tissue, it inflames and constricts airways and upsets the fluid balance in our lungs. It can cause the muscles around the airways to tighten. The most common symptoms are a tight feeling in the chest, shortness of breath, and a decreased performance level in athletes. Studies are being conducted to evaluate the role of ozone exposure to the onset of asthma. Other studies indicate an increase of emergency hospital admissions from respiratory distress during periods of elevated ozone concentrations."

the high ozone levels are caused by both local traffic and ozone produced 50 miles away down in the sacramento valley, that drifts upward and eastward and bumps up against the sierra nevada mountains and a temperature inversion. it does, apparently, over time dissipate or drift upward, hopefully to join the tattered ozone layer up high, which we humans have damaged. when the ground ozone level goes up we are encouraged to drive less and perhaps even stay inside. at least to lighten up physically. children are affected more than adults, as are people with respiratory problems and older people.

we don't have breathing problems, we are moderately old. this isn't a proverbial deal-breaker. we have to live somewhere. how's the air where you live?

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