Valley's Air District to relaunch air purifier program


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Mar 06, 2023

Valley's Air District to relaunch air purifier program

Air Purifiers are being distributed to select communities across the Central

Air Purifiers are being distributed to select communities across the Central Valley, as part of a program by the region's air pollution control district to improve residential air quality.

Residents across the Central Valley are encouraged to claim free air purifiers as part of a relaunching by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District of its Clean Air Rooms Program, which looks to promote better breathing in the home.

"Smoke from severe wildfires can inundate the Valley and make its way into homes, causing health impacts to our most vulnerable residents," said Samir Sheikh, executive director of the Valley Air District.

Now in its second year, the program was piloted in 2022 with 1,200 purifiers provided to those in low-income, disadvantaged areas "who may not otherwise be able to buy an in-home air purifier to protect their families during wildfires," Sheikh said. The purifiers were given away within a few weeks, officials confirmed, a clear indication, they said, of the program's need in a region plagued by wildfires and other emitters that befoul the air quality.

"Last year we launched it with no outreach," said Jaime Holt, the chief communications officer for the air district. "The only thing we did was inform some community-based organizations to get the word out — no press releases, social media or paid advertisements, and it sold out within a couple weeks."

In its 2022 pilot year, the program dedicated to Kern $52,709, or about 275 units. Now with additional state and district funding, the program has allocated to this county alone $190,000, for about 950 units. Holt confirmed Thursday that in the first three days, they received more than 2,000 applications.

Holt attributed the interest to the East Coast, where smoke has blanketed major cities across the Atlantic seaboard with a thick, yellow haze, causing schools to close, air traffic to delay and millions of Americans to stay indoors. The scene, and subsequent air pollution is all too familiar to the valley, where wildfires can drift downstate to Kern County and inundate the area with airborne pollutants.

"It's a reminder for folks here in California that they need to be prepared for wildfire season," Holt said. "Especially for those valley communities that might not otherwise be able to afford air purifiers who are now able to get one and protect their family."

While the devices do not filter smoke, the HEPA-rated purifiers can reduce indoor particulate matter — think dust and pollen — by 90% in well-sealed environments.

"So while the ash is not filtered out, smoke is made of smaller particles not visible," Holt said. "Those particles get into the lungs and into your bloodstream. This has been tied to all sorts of breathing issues, brain issues; some evidence shows they’ve been leaked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and dementia."

But not everyone in Kern can qualify for a purifier.

"We look at a variety of different conditions," Holt said. "Socioeconomic status, the surrounding environment and the amount of community interest all played a part in selecting the areas — big chunks of the valley fall within the purview of this program."

Aside from the general program, the city of Shafter and Arvin-Lamont both qualified for specific programs under the state's Clean Air Protection Program, as they all designated a significant need. In Shafter, nearly 5,000 purifiers will be available, with a similar number expected for Arvin-Lamont, though Holt said it's still too early to confirm anything. Stockton and parts of Fresno were also selected for the same program, Holt said.

"The Arvin-Lamont area was selected but more recently than Shafter, so they’re not as far along in the process," Holt said.

First-time applicants can check their eligibility status and apply for the program at or call 661-392-5500.

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