Nov 16, 2018

California Has the Most Toxic Air on the Planet Thanks to Wildfires

Sacramento, CA
Brian Kahn
The scene in Sacramento on Thursday. Credit: AP
The scene in Sacramento on Thursday. Credit: AP

Real-time maps from Berkeley Earth, a group that analyzes climate data, show that air quality has rapidly deteriorated across northern California and reveal just how bad it is compared to the rest of the world.

Specifically, air quality in Sacramento, the Bay Area, the Central Valley, and elsewhere in Northern California fall into the very unhealthy category. The Air Quality Index—a standardized way of taking stock of how much pollution regulated under the Clean Air Act is in the air—was in the low to mid-200s as of Friday morning for much of Northern California. That’s the equivalent of smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day. Chico, which is just down the road from the still burning Camp Fire, had an Air Quality Index above 300. Healthy air quality is anywhere from 0-50.

That puts California in a class of its own. China and India are usually the world’s air pollution hot spots owing to massive cities where industrialization and lightly-regulated vehicles can create toxic, soupy air. But the Camp Fire has ensured that even if just for a few days, residents in one of the most developed parts of the world in a state bent on cleaning up pollution are forced to breathe the worst air.

Global air quality data for Friday shows that California has the worst air on Earth.

Image: Berkeley Earth