It’s springtime, and that means windy days. County officials have begun issuing health advisories for the windiest days, warning people in the Oceano Dunes and Nipomo Mesa areas of high dust levels.
The warnings typically come every week or so and last several days. They are triggered by high wind conditions that are likely to generate unhealthy particulate levels as dust blows off the dunes and onto the Nipomo Mesa.
During the advisories, county officials recommend that people minimize outdoor activity when blowing dust is visible. High particulate levels typically peak from 1 to 5 p.m.
“We don’t want to be alarmist,” said Larry Allen, county air pollution control officer. “These advisories are basically a caution to the public to make sure they are aware of the conditions so they can take appropriate precautions to protect their health.”
The advisories are likely to continue through the rest of the spring, the windiest time of year. They should stop during the summer, and pick up again in the fall but not as frequently as during the spring.
Sensitive individuals, such as infants and children and adults with respiratory or heart conditions, are the most vulnerable to high dust levels, said Dr. Penny Borenstein, county health officer.
Wheezing and shortness of breath can result from high dust levels. However, the cumulative effects of repeated exposure are the main concern.
“Unless the concentrations are really high,” Borenstein said, “you wouldn’t expect to see any immediate effects.”
This spring is not any windier than normal, but this is the first year that advisories are regularly being issued. That’s because this is the first year that the county Air Pollution Control District has a policy in place that provides protocols for making the predictions, Allen said.
County residents can find out what the daily air quality forecast is by visiting www.slocleanair.org or by calling 781-4390.
Visitors to the website can also sign up to receive daily forecasts via email.