Air Quality

How Are We Doing?

Air quality received a thumbs-up because the combined number of unhealthy air days and unhealthy air days for sensitive groups decreased from 62 to 35 in 2018 (a 44% decrease).

Asthma hospitalization rates for children, an indicator of poor air quality, varied throughout the county in 2017. Similar to 2016, the areas with the highest rates are in Downtown San Diego, Barrio Logan and Logan Heights.

thumbs up

Improved more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018

Data Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Air Quality Index Report, 2019

Unhealthy Days for Sensitive Groups - General public is not likely to be affected but people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk.
Unhealthy Days - Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.
Very Unhealthy Days - This triggers a health alert signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.

Children’s Asthma Hospitalization Rates by Zip Code

(Rate of five or more children's asthma hospitalization events per 10,000 people, by zip code)

Hospitalization Map. The legend reads, "Rates of five or more children's asthma hospitalization events per 10,000 people by zip code."

Data Sources: California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) 2017 Patient Discharge and Emergency Department Databases

Asthma hospitalization rates for children, an indicator of poor air quality, varied throughout the county in 2017. Similar to 2016, the areas with the highest rates are in Downtown San Diego, Barrio Logan and Logan Heights.

Regional Response

Policies

The San Diego County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) is in charge of regulating air pollution in the region. However, this agency has been criticized for not taking sufficient measures to improve air quality, since San Diego has had consistently high levels of ozone and particulate pollution over the last few years. In response to this challenge, State Assemblymember Todd Gloria has introduced legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 423, which would reform the structure of the APCD. This bill would adjust the membership of the APCD board to include more local elected officials and would increase the agency’s accountability and accessibility to the public. These changes could improve the APCD’s capacity for enacting effective air pollution reduction strategies.

Partnerships

Although San Diego is recognized for its geography and climate, the region has had long-term challenges with respect to air quality. On October 3, 2018, the Center for Sustainable Energy, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), the Greenlining Institute, and the Coalition for Clean Air organized the San Diego Clean Air Day, a local event to raise awareness of poor air quality issues in the region. Event participants included San Diego City Councilmember Georgette Gomez, Assemblymember Todd Gloria, and over a dozen business and community organizations.


U.S.-Mexico Border Region

In 2018 over 14.5 milion vehicles crossed the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro, leading to massive air pollution and high rates of respiratory problems. A multi-year research project involving the University of Washington, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, and the community organization Casa Familiar is tackling this problem by installing air quality monitors and tracking pollution data, which can be used to develop effective pollution mitigation programs.



What Are We Measuring?

We measure air quality by tracking the number of days when San Diego County’s air is considered unhealthy or very unhealthy for the total population as well as when it is unhealthy for sensitive groups as recorded in the EPA Air Quality Index Report. Air pollution levels measured at a particular monitoring site are not necessarily representative of the air quality for an entire county or urban area. We also measure children’s asthma hospitalization rates by ZIP code throughout the county and report on those areas with 5 or more events. Learn more about the data.