September Dust Pollution Hits New High In Five Years

Carmela Karcher

“It’s in your teeth. It’s in your ears. It’s in everything,” Ray Vega said.

“You got hot, you got humid, you got dust,” Sue Derrico shared.

“I wear a mask when I walk to keep the sand out,” Mark Fornwall explained. “Otherwise, your teeth get dirty.”

Those are just a few of the words to describe what living in the desert has been like over the past month.

In part, thanks to what Tropical Storm Hilary left behind: lots of sand and piles of unattended mud.

“We get up in the morning and go outside and on the back patio, you used to be able to see both mountains. Facing north, looking west and east, can’t see anything anymore,” Vega continued.

“A couple of my relatives that are here are kind of acting like they have a cold and they don’t have a cold so probably allergy symptoms,” Derrico said. “Definitely my mom, she gets sneezing fits and coughing. There’s just a layer of dust all over her patio. It is crazy.”

During the desert summer months, there’s usually more dust and sand in the air.

But according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, this month has been a little worse than years past.

“We do see in the data that particle pollution levels have been higher this September than past September’s over the past five years or so,” South Coast AQMD Air Quality Assessment Program Manager Scott Epstein said.

Epstein says it’s still too early to fully blame the poor air quality on the storm.

But the piles of mud and sand that are still found around the desert are only adding to the dust lingering in the sky.

“Soils that are kind of moved around by say construction, or potentially rainfall and flooding, are more erodible from the winds,” Epstein continued. “You can get disturbed soils into the air at much lower wind speeds.”

There are ways to stay healthy even in this poor air quality.

“If the air quality is unhealthy, especially if you’re in those sensitive groups, you want to minimize the amount of poor air quality that you breathe in,” Epstein explained. “So remain inside with your windows and doors closed, if you can, run your AC or an air purifier and then if it’s possible, you want to avoid things that bring outside air inside like a swamp cooler or whole house fan.”

The weather has been cooling which means a lot more outdoor activities so it’s important to check what the air quality is before heading out because it can impact your overall health.

For current air quality levels, click here.

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