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Call it a pollution double whammy.
People in the central San Joaquin Valley have been breathing smoke from the Ferguson Fire for nearly a month, but there’s more than a brown shroud of smoke that is making the air putrid and dangerous to breathe. Ozone, a corrosive gas that sears lungs, is building up to unhealthy and very unhealthy levels.
Ozone — you know it better as smog — relies on sunlight and heat to cook vehicle exhaust and other noxious fumes into a toxic brew. Smog typically takes center stage in the Valley’s pollution theater in the summer, but this year the wildfire has been choking the area with tiny dots of soot. The itsy-bitsy particles called PM2.5 have been dangerously dense, catapulting the Valley to pollution levels higher than seen in Beijing.