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First Valley neighbor to represent environmental air quality group

Riverside County ranked one of smoggiest in the U.S.

Pollution Health


Karla Cardenas signed up her 8-year-old daughter for the Coachella Little League at Bagdouma Park on Thursday.

"It's really nice to be able to come here, enjoy nice weather and air," she said.

The air is not so nice according to the league's president Rudy Gutierrez.

"There are some dirt fields around us and when the wind picks up it brings that dirt across the fields. It's important we understand it affects everybody," said Gutierrez.

He's serving his first week as the Coachella Valley's first representative on the local air district's Environmental Justice Advisory Group.

The 30-member board works closely with the South Coast Air Quality Management District monitoring the air quality of Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

"You can't see it but you can certainly breath it. It's there," said Cardenas.

The South Coast region is home to about 17 million people. It's the second-most populated in the nation and it's also the smoggiest. A health hazard Gutierrez hopes to change.

"If we can help understand how we can fix that, how we control it, that is huge," he said.

The advisory group creates community awareness and reports environmental justice issues to the AQMD to help reduce and prevent pollution from everyday consumer products, plus cars, buses, airplanes and trains.

If not, neighbors fear it will increase the number of respiratory illnesses including asthma, cancer and lung disease.

"The kids will depend on inhalers to play and it will overall interfere with participating in sports," said Cardenas.

Another smelly issue at hand is the Salton Sea. Gutierrez says the AQMD's approved stink monitoring system near the Salton Sea should be up and running by March, which will warn people when the stench of decaying organisms at the lake reaches critical levels.

"When the big stink comes again we can find out why it's happening and what we can do to prepare," said Gutierrez.

The goal is to create a healthier place to live for future generations

The public is invited to attend the inaugural Environmental Health Leadership Summit for the Coachella Valley on Feb. 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at Desert Mirage High School in Thermal.

For more information, visit


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