The San Francisco Bay Area ranks among the top 10 most polluted regions in the country, according to a report issued Wednesday by the American Lung Association.
State of the Air 2017 is based on air quality monitoring from 2013 to 2015, and includes San Benito and San Joaquin counties in the greater Bay Area.
San Joaquin County has the highest level of year-round particle pollution levels in the region. The county suffered its worst period ever for pollution from diesel exhaust, wood burning devices, wildfires and other sources of soot, a situation exacerbated by climate change and recent drought conditions, according to the American Lung Association.
Overall, the Bay Area's particle pollution ranked sixth nationwide for the number of unhealthy days and fourth nationwide for year-round levels. This puts area residents at risk for health problems like asthma and lung cancer.
"I run cross-country and compete in track and field, so I always need to be aware of my surroundings," Jaxin Woodward, a 15-year-old high school athlete from Vacaville, said in a statement. "Exhaust from cars triggers asthma attacks a lot for me."
There was a reduction in the number of days with unhealthy levels of ozone. San Francisco, Marin, Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties all had zero unhealthy ozone days during the period monitored.
The report also indicates that the number of unhealthy ozone days have dropped throughout the state and nationwide, which the American Lung Association attributes to the federal Clean Air Act.
Air quality laws and policies to combat climate change save lives, according to the American Lung Association, and need to be protected in Congress.