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State receives failing grade for its air quality

A new report released in mid-February found that climate change is making California air quality dangerous for kids to play outside. Since 2000, the average number of days children in California could not safely play outside rose from three days to 38 days. San Joaquin and Sacramento counties are also rated among the nation’s “Asthma Capitals” and are most vulnerable to climate-related air toxicity and asthma.

In light of this devastating new air quality report, Representative Josh Harder (CA-9) is now calling increasing toxic air quality the next public health crisis. For children with asthma, playing outside for just 15 minutes in unhealthy air conditions could trigger an asthma attack and could last for days if left untreated. In a separate report, Stockton was deemed one of the country’s top “Asthma Capitals” due to the high rates of asthma and lack of asthma health care providers.

“Given this new disastrous report, it is time we start calling this what is – a public health crisis. Our kids are literally getting sick from playing outside, something is terribly wrong here,” said Rep. Harder. “We have the highest rates of asthma in the entire country and it’s only getting worse. We need a surge of public health resources into our area to get this under control before it’s too late.”

Additional public health resources include home air filters and air purifiers as well as programs that train and place pulmonologists in high-risk high-need areas like San Joaquin County.

This continues Harder’s work to address the threat of toxic air quality. Rep. Harder introduced the Wildfire Smoke Emergency Declaration Act of 2023 to establish “smoke emergencies” that can be declared when wildfire smoke makes air quality hazardous. These emergency declarations would provide families and businesses with emergency disaster relief. He also introduced the bipartisan Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act to make sure there are enough wildland firefighters on the job by protecting crucial increases in their pay and health benefits.