People wearing smoke masks, children going stir-crazy indoors, families driving hours to find fresh air. Alarming as it is to some, unhealthy air enveloping the San Francisco Bay Area in recent days is all too familiar to millions of people around the world (see global ranking and air pollution map).
In fact, the air quality index (AQI) – a representation of pollutant concentration over a specified period of time – in San Francisco in recent days is on par with some of the most polluted cities in the world, according to Stanford researchers who study the effects of poor air quality.
“I don’t want to minimize how devastating the California fires have been or the current unusual state of air quality in the Bay Area, but these conditions are really the norm for people living in many other parts of the world,” said Nina Brooks, a doctoral candidate in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program on Environment and Resources (E-IPER) in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.
Nina Brooks is a 2015 Stanford Graduate Fellow.