Breathing San Fran Air Like Smoking 11 Cigarettes: Researchers

Smog from wildfires has given San Francisco, Stockton, Sacramento worst pollution in the world
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2018 7:00 AM CST
Calif. Cities Now Have Worst Air Pollution in the World
The skyline is obscured by smoke and haze from wildfires as a tour boat makes its way along the waterfront Thursday in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The smoke in some parts of California from the wildfires has been "overwhelming," and now the air in some cities there has earned a new descriptor: the world's worst. CNN reports on a sobering chart from the Berkeley Earth nonprofit, which pulls together stats from sites that measure air quality, with three California cities topping that chart Friday morning as the "most polluted" in the world: San Francisco, Stockton, and Sacramento. As of Saturday morning, Oakland had also shot up to the top of the list. A second air-quality site also shows the Golden State plagued by more contaminated air than "traditional smog hot spots" in India and China. "It appears to be the worst air quality ever experienced in San Francisco," a University of Washington environmental professor tells CNN, calling it an "air-quality emergency."

How bad is it? Using an equation devised by researchers at UC Berkeley, the San Francisco Chronicle notes that breathing in the air in San Francisco for 24 hours is now the equivalent of smoking 11 cigarettes; average air pollution in the US is the equivalent of smoking about 0.4 cigarettes daily. In affected areas, schools, colleges, and even public transportation—including San Francisco's famous cable cars—have been forced to shut down. Meanwhile, the numbers surrounding Northern California's Camp Fire have taken a turn for the worse: Officials say the death toll now stands at 71, with 1,011 people reported missing, per CNN and the Los Angeles Times. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea notes that number may shift as the data is more closely examined. (A parolee died after a chase through the fire zone.)

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