SACRAMENTO, CA – On the afternoon of September 30, Governor Newsom signed Assemblymember Lisa Calderon’s (D – Whittier) air quality and lung health bill, Assembly Bill 619, taking an important step to protect those with chronic lung health issues from the adverse effects of wildfire smoke.
“As wildfire season becomes hotter, drier, and longer due to the ongoing climate crisis, wildfire smoke will continue to pose an increasingly dire risk to the lung health of Californians,” Assemblymember Calderon states. “Assembly Bill 619 is an important step forward to ensuring that individuals with lung issues are adequately protected from this growing threat.”
Assembly Bill (AB) 619 requires the California Department of Public Health (DPH) to develop recommendations and guidelines for counties to use during a significant air quality event that increases the presence of harmful particulate matter, such as a wildfire. It also requires counties to incorporate these DPH guidelines in their next emergency plan and provide lung health-related information to the public.
Today, Californians are facing a diverse threat to respiratory health. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the fifth-leading cause of death in California and is projected to be the third-leading cause of death nationally by 2030. Close to 50% of those in California with COPD belong to minority populations and one-third live below the 130% federal poverty level.
Moreover, in the last few years, the state has experienced several of the largest wildfires in California history, with 2020’s August Complex Fire regarded as the largest ever. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports that in the last 2 years the state experienced thousands of fires that burned more than 6 million acres of land. Not only are these wildfires changing the physical landscapes of California, but also the air we breathe.
Wildfire smoke constitutes nearly half the fine particle pollution in the western part of the US, with recent research revealing it contains harmful fungi and bacteria. This smoke is not isolated to the region the fire is taking place, as reports from Los Angeles City officials in late September indicated that local air quality was being effected by Northern and Central Californian wildfires.
“Air quality, among other factors, contributes to poor lung health and our state has a duty to provide the public with crucial resources to protect themselves from developing respiratory diseases,” added Assemblymember Calderon. “AB 619 will not only improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations, but also reduce healthcare costs to the state by reducing the frequency of emergency room visits related to respiratory health.”
For full text of this bill, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov
Contact: Alberto Ruiz, firstname.lastname@example.org