March 29, 2006

California farm heartland’s dirty air costs $3 bln

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Air pollution in California's San
Joaquin Valley imposes $3 billion annually in health-care, lost
productivity and other costs on the farm-rich region, according
to a report released on Wednesday.

The report by California State University, Fullerton
economists said the region's air pollution costs each resident
an average $1,000 annually.

They predicted the cost would increase if the region's air
quality, already among the worst in the nation, is not improved
because the valley's population of 3 million is seen growing by
a third by 2020.

"The San Joaquin Valley can't afford to foot this bill.
We're losing lives, money and making the Central Valley an
increasingly less attractive place to live and work," said Dean
Florez, chairman of a California state Senate select committee
on air quality.

University researchers used measures such as premature
deaths, asthma attacks, cases of acute bronchitis, hospital
admissions, school absences and lost work days for their
estimates on the effect of air pollution in the valley.