State of the (cough!) air, OR, When the lights go down in Ventura

April 29, 2009

I think it’s true that people often find themselves living vicariously through the lyrical magic of song, transported to places deep down in the heart made impossible without the aid of music.

Why is it, then, that I find myself humming Journey’s “Lights” over and over this morning? Simply, because that most ultimate of power ballads transports me to a place deep down in my lungs … namely, San Francisco, where the air is clean, fresh, and smog-free.

So says the American Lung Association in their annual “State of the Air” report card. Frisco, as well as places like Santa Cruz, Napa, and other regions in the northern section of California, received an “A” grade this week, meaning they carry a spotless air quality free of bad ozone particulates, pollution and carcinogenic bad stuff.

The spitting mirror image of this blissful oxygen haven, according to the ALA, is none other than Ventura County. We received a big, stinking “F” in our grading of ozone quality.

That means there’s a lot of smog in the air, which is formed when pollutant particles mix with the atmosphere. One example is something we reported on last week: the use of pesticides contributes to smog formation.

It’s really no surprise, actually. Los Angeles, just an hour away, is the smog capital of the world. Yet in an ironic twist, the VC got a “C” grade in particle pollution, beating out San Francisco County’s grade of … guess what? An “F.” It’s baffling that Santa Barbara County, no more than 20 minutes away, earned an “A” in the same category.

I can’t help but think if Steve Perry & Co. wrote “Lights” about Ventura County, it’d go something like, “When the lights go down in the city, and the smog hangs on the bay.”

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