Officials warn about harm of gusty winds in San Joaquin Valley

Air-pollution officials issued a health cautionary statement today due to gusty winds in the San Joaquin Valley.

The San Joaquin Valley refers to the area of the Central Valley of California that lies south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Stockton. Although most of the valley is rural, it does contain major urban cities such as Stockton, Fresno, Visalia, Modesto, Bakersfield, and Merced.

The San Joaquin Valley extends from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the north to the Tehachapi Mountains in the south, and from the various California coastal ranges in the west to the Sierra Nevada in the east.

Winds in the Valley may produce areas of localized blowing dust, especially in the western parts of Tulare, Kern, Fresno and Madera counties, and in the northern counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced.

Blowing dust can result in unhealthy concentrations of particulate matter 10 microns or smaller in size, otherwise known as PM10.

"Take precautions to protect your health if you are in an area of blowing dust," Shawn Ferreria, senior air quality specialist with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, said in a prepared release.

Exposure to particulate matter can cause serious health problems, aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and increase the risk of respiratory infections. In people with heart disease, short-term exposure to particulate pollution has been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmia, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.