Schools checked for Dunes dust

Starting with schools, county air officials are expanding dust monitoring in the South County in an effort to gain a better picture of which areas receive high particulate levels from Oceano Dunes.

The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District has completed monitoring at Mesa Middle School and Oceano Elementary School and will soon complete measurements at Lopez Continuation High School and Dorothea Lange Elementary School.

Schools were targeted first for monitoring because children are more vulnerable to air pollution than adults. Long-term exposure to particulate matter is known to cause asthma, decreased lung function and other cardiovascular problems.

The preliminary results are encouraging. They show that dust levels at Mesa Middle School and Oceano Elementary are very similar to a monitoring station in San Luis Obispo, which does not have a history of high dust levels, air officials say.

The South County air monitoring program will be discussed when the air district board of directors meets Wednesday in San Luis Obispo. A public workshop is also planned for Aug. 24 at the South County Regional Center.

If funding is available, the air district will expand monitoring to areas in the community surrounding the schools. Information gathered by the monitoring will be made available to the public via the Internet and other outreach methods.

“Our goal is to make the public aware of the resources available to assist them in understanding daily air quality conditions and recommended actions to protect their health,” said Larry Allen, county air pollution control officer.

The Nipomo Mesa regularly exceeds health standards for particulate matter, especially on windy days.

A recent study by the air district showed that off-highway vehicle riding on the Oceano Dunes exacerbates the problem.