When Angel Kaye's mother receives a warning on her phone that the air quality is bad, he uses his inhaler and does not go outside. The family closes the doors and windows of their mobile home and turns on an expensive air filter as Angels airways narrow and he has difficulty breathing.
Angel, 16, got asthma symptoms after his family moved to the Nipomo Mesa, a rural community in southern San Luis Obispo County, facing the breeze from a State Department of Parks and Recreation jeep park on the Oceano Dunes.
If the inhabitants do not bunk inside on windy days, they regularly breathe poisonous dust. This emerges from 20 years of air quality monitoring data published by the air pollution control district of the San Luis Obispo district.
Nobody knows what caused the condition that leads to Angel's nocturnal coughing fits and lack of oxygen, but he and his family know it's worse when the air is bad. Angel's younger sister also shows symptoms ̵
When strong winds blow from the direction of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, a large cloud of data shows that the dust rises for hours inland.
The dust covers cars and lawn furniture. It also gets into the house and can enter the lungs and bloodstream of the people. The problem has caught the attention of the American Lung Association.
A cloud of dust has been flown into the community about 60 times this year.
State Parks have violated clean air regulations for years and fought the air pollution control enforcement efforts, with the state and local authority in a virtually stalemate situation.
Some elected officials say the Oceano Dunes dust is the biggest Public health problems in the county, others say the residents are exaggerating, complaints are from wealthy retirees who want to close the park, and that the mensc They should not live so close to the dunes.
There have been no scientific health studies conducted in the community – and that is what is needed.
Nonetheless, residents believe that they have health effects due to poor air quality, and their experience is consistent with the medical studies that are the known health risks found when exposed to a blast furnace with high particulate matter concentrations.
Over the past six months, The Tribune has heard from more than 300 Nipomo Mesa residents through online questionnaires, telephone interviews and face-to-face interviews on the porch and in front of local schools.
What Nipomo Mesa Residents Do When the Wind Blows
When Rose Kaye first contacted The Tribune through an online questionnaire she saw on Facebook, she wrote that she was worried make the strong winds that make my son si. She is not alone, people told us that she or her family has chest tightness and respiratory distress, a lot of cough, more severe allergies, throat obstruction, bronchitis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease have health and are forcing people to Twenty people identified themselves or someone in their family as having lung disease
Older adults and families with small children moved away in search of relief, others said they had no problems.
Air quality monitors on the mesa regularly record particle levels known as PM 10 and PM 2.5, which are considered unsafe by the World Health Organization Fine dust is small enough to penetrate to enter the respiratory tract into the lungs and into the bloodstream.
Luftqua Alert warnings of "dust detected on Nipomo Mesa" often say that air quality can be "unhealthy" for sensitive groups. "
" Sensitive groups "are all older adults, people with existing heart and lung problems, and all infants, children and adolescents. The air quality is sometimes unhealthy for everyone.
When the wind blows, people who have health problems or are worried about dust say they stay indoors, take medications, wear masks or use oxygen devices, and use air purifiers or inhalers in asthma. They also said that they keep windows and doors closed, restrict outdoor activities, leave the city to do sports or simply endure the symptoms.
"The good days here are rare," said Louise Easton, who moved to the Nipomo resort community trilogy with Monarch Dunes with her husband a few years ago. "We thought we would come here, use all the facilities and be able to get out and do things. And we do not. It's like living in a bubble.
After months of respiratory problems, recurring bronchitis, and pneumonia, Easton saw an immunologist diagnose her severe allergies and tell her that they were caused by dust, and now take medication to treat her symptoms and outdoor activity
A growing body of medical research has revealed that increased levels of particulate matter are associated with asthma attacks, lung disease, heart attack, stroke, and premature mortality, which is particularly bad for children and older adults.
"We want to make sure that the house closed, so that no dust can penetrate, "said Angel Kaye over windy days." If I have not taken my inhaler and everything is open, I usually get very tired. I do not want to do anything because I'm starting to feel worse.
"I start to cough. It is always bad. "
Money , Recreation and Public Health
The Tribune shared these stories and data on air quality with several experts, including Patricia Koman, a former US Environmental Protection Agency scientist at the University of Michigan who is studying the health effects of air pollution.  "Urgent action is appropriate because you are talking about things that are disturbing and changing people's behavior," Koman said. "The Clean Air Act suggests that people have clean air and not in their homes … sensitive groups should be able to live their lives in the open air to breathe lead and the air.
The public health risk has been largely denied or ignored by the state of California and some locally elected officials. Often this is recognized by government agencies that have the authority to do something, but action is delayed.
The problem is not that dirt bikes and quads swirl on the nearby Oceano Dunes sand and the vehicles emit no fumes.
The worst air days occur when they are strong Northwest winds carry fine dust particles across the mesa. While it's natural for sand to blow over the dunes, State Park research suggests that more dust is ejected from high-wind events in areas where vehicles are allowed to drive.
The park does not have to be closed to reduce the dust cloud. Scientists commissioned to research the problem say that delineating areas with the highest emissions would be helpful. According to the Clean Air District, State Parks has taken some measures, but these are not enough.
Elected officials are pushing for additional mitigation measures that could help communities avoid the wind, as the park thrills thousands of all-terrain vehicle drivers who love the park.
"The Oceano dunes offer a great economic benefit to local businesses, towns and counties and provide millions of Californians with access to coastal recreation," MEP Jordan Cunningham wrote in a letter to the Coastal Commission on 3 July 2019. "Please do not restrict access to any of the state's coastal treasures." Angel Kaye's mother Rose said she does not really pay attention to politics.
"I do not take a party," she said. "I'm just too busy regulating my own household so my kids can breathe, whatever happens, I still have to take care of my family."
Indigenous children cough a lot.
In early September, 6-year-old Kagan Stump coughed so badly that he had to vomit.
"It's hard to see your child struggle to breathe , It's scary, "said Gwynne Stump, whose family lives on Nipomo Mesa near Dorothea Lange Elementary School.
She believed that her son suffered from allergies. This is a common complaint in the region.
Dozens of parents and guardians who spoke to The Tribune in May prior to elementary school said they or their children often cough on windy days.
Nearly a dozen parents said that their children had severe allergies since they moved to school area – some to the point of taking Claritin everyday or receiving weekly allergy shots. Some have been diagnosed with asthma.
The county health department said there was an increase in allergic complaints throughout the county last spring, including mesa, probably because of the high pollen count.
Allergy-like symptoms are often reported as asthma, according to local pediatrician William Morgan, who saw several mesa residents in his nearby practice in downtown Arroyo Grande.
Research suggests that particulate matter can aggravate allergy symptoms and cause asthma.
Dust from the dunes is a major source of air pollution, but not the only one. There are probably multiple particle sources that cause poor air quality on the Nipomo Mesa.
Agricultural fields, unpaved roads and grills are all constant sources. Wildfire smoke can affect the community as well as construction.
Over the past two decades, the community has grown significantly.
More than 250 acres of eucalyptus trees were removed and replaced by more than 1,000 homes in the trilogy development of Shea Homes. Some say that would have worsened the air.
However, the main source of particulate matter remains unchanged.
Data from air quality monitors near schools and throughout the community reflect what the air pollution agencies have been saying for nearly a decade: frequent and temporary spikes in particulate matter are registered when strong winds blow over the dunes and the dunes Community blows.
Lynn Compton, whose district includes the Nipomo MESA, said if she believes in air quality because of asthma she would move her daughter.
This is a suggestion that Rose Kaye has heard before and she is not a fan.
"This is our life. Here we live. Here are our jobs. I mean, why should we have to move?
Morgan has recommended that families move if the treatment of allergies and asthma could not relieve a child's symptoms.
"Over the years, I have had some families, no matter what we do "Do not get better," Morgan said. "And actually, when they moved, the kids got better in a week or two, so it was pretty dramatic."
"It's a difficult thing to do to a family say she needs to change addresses. "
Fortunately, Kagan is doing much better now that he's getting asthma treatment, Stump said, still not sure what his coughing attacks are causing
"I believe it's the poor air quality," she said, "other than closing the house and staying inside, I do not think we can do much, right?"
Senior They switched to Trilogy without knowing any risks
It looks like a low, brown cloud. Hazy. Like living in a dust storm. A big gray mass floats in the air. A swarm of bees in the distance.
These are just a few of the descriptions of how the air on the Nipomo Mesa looks when the wind is bad.
The cloud blows on stormy days, bringing with it short amounts of particulate matter normally found in the most polluted regions cities in the world.
A massive population study that analyzed air pollution and mortality data in 652 cities in 24 countries over a 30-year period revealed that an increase in death is associated with exposure to inhalable particulate matter, even if it falls below national levels air quality standards.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said that exposure leads to increased cardiovascular and respiratory mortality rates.
"This is always the fear of bad air," said Stephen Szabo, a respiratory physician practitioner with Tenet Health on the Central Coast. "Prolonging this without treatment or interrupting your exposure can cause permanent damage to your lungs." The cause of his lung cancer is wind-swept dust and air pollution in the area. David Middlecamp [email protected]
Several older adults reported that The Tribune currently has lung disease and that they had no breathing problems until they moved to the mesa. Most of them have never smoked or worked in polluting industries.
However, many residents – especially those living further from the source – do not know about the risk and do not believe it, and potential community members only realize the scale of the problem when they move in.  It is customary to develop the so-called "mesa cough" within a few years.
Dorothy Modafferi, 77, joined Trilogy in 2013 and soon thereafter had severe cough and breathing problems. It has two air filters and gets the air quality warnings.
A pulmonologist diagnosed adult asthma in 2016.
"First of all (the doctor) he said that I lived in the wrong place for my lungs," said Modafferi. When she could not breathe without her inhaler, she thought she should go.
"To save my life, I know I have to get out of this," she said.
There is a revelation in the papers that people sign when they buy their homes to warn people that the problem of air quality is known. People told The Tribune that it did not seem like a big problem or that the language implied that the problem would be solved soon.
But that did not happen.
Bill Schubert went to development near Oceano Dunes in 2006. He noticed the dust for the first time when he burned his eyes.
"In the spring of 2018, I got a cold. It became pneumonia and I could not get rid of the cough, "said Schubert, 76. After several tests, a biopsy revealed that he did not have stage 4 small cell lung cancer. He has taken medication for a year.
No one can say what caused his cancer, but Schubert has an idea after he has investigated possible risks.
"Air pollution, smoking, radon gas, these are the big ones," he said. "Never smoked, there is no radon gas in this area (or where he used to live here before.) The only thing left is air pollution."
If Sherry Trade knew about the air pollution, she and her husband said they would not. t moved to Mesa in 2015. Poor air is dangerous for people with existing heart and lung disease.
Her husband was surgically relieved of lung cancer in 2009. After three years with Trilogy, she returned.
"It turned out that he was like the perfect person who was damaged by the particulate matter problem," said Trade. "I certainly expected him to be over 75 years old. You know, I just think his life was probably ended prematurely.
Now she never holds the windows or doors open and only does outdoor activities in the morning.
"I'm not looking for them to close the park, I'm just looking for them to clean the air, obviously there are ways to do that," said Trade.
Monica Vaughan reported on this project with the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, 2019, California Fellowship and Engagement Support Danielle Fox, Engagement Editor of the Center.