Press & News

Doctor to Fresno officials: If we cannot breathe, nothing else matters

Fawn Olvera of Clovis uses a nebulizer machine to inhale her medicine to help her breathe in her living room on April 6. Olvera has asthma and air pollution makes it worse.
Fawn Olvera of Clovis uses a nebulizer machine to inhale her medicine to help her breathe in her living room on April 6. Olvera has asthma and air pollution makes it worse.Fresno Bee file

As a physician, I see many patients every day. Whether it is asthma, COPD, or other chronic respiratory diseases, it is evident that poor air quality is having an impact on our community’s health. Unfortunately, I see these impacts far too often in Fresno.

Praveen Buddiga, MD

The Fresno region, and much of the Valley, ranks among the worst air quality in the nation. In the most recent State of the Air report from the American Lung Association, Fresno ranked third worst for ozone, or smog pollution, and particle pollution, largely caused by vehicle traffic and freight.

California has some of the strongest policies in the country to reduce vehicle emissions through both zero-emission vehicles and clean fuels. Those policies are an important tool to decrease vehicle emissions, but we need more tools to solve the problem. We must address the fundamental changes that need to happen in our state’s land use planning and transportation system decisions.

To clean the air and improve health we must change the way we have designed our neighborhoods for decades.

We have placed the focus on sprawl that leads to increased traffic and air pollution while reducing the ability for residents to walk, bike or share a ride for even the simplest of errands. It is time we make regional planning decisions based on public health and reduced air pollution.

Last week the California Air Resources Board started the process to update regional climate targets for 2020 and 2035, focused on reducing emissions through land-use and transportation decisions.

These targets, originally established by state legislation in 2008, will guide community-planning decisions in Fresno and beyond to limit air pollution from vehicles. For public health, it is critical the Air Board pass the strongest targets to continue efforts to reduce air pollution.

Breathing unhealthy air can affect everything from birth weight to school performance, and it can lead to an increased risk for a lifetime of lung disease. Air pollution is connected to increased asthma rates, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, and even premature death.

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