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Clean Air: A huge factor not being considered in housing demand

Welcome to San Francisco and Silicon Valley!  Today, our air quality index is 45 [1], meaning ozone levels are good, pollutant particulate matter is low and there are no health warnings for going outside.  You can jog, hike, bike, take your kids outside, and you can also see for miles!

 (San Francisco from the Marin Headlands by Deniece W. Smith, Realtor)


Now, imagine that you lived in a location where the air you breathed were rarely at a healthy or even moderately healthy level.  Air pollutants can cause irritation to the eyes, upper respiratory infections, or headaches in the short-term, and lung cancer, heart disease and even brain, nerve and liver or kidney damage in the long-term. [2].  Imagine living in a place where it could even feel strenuous to breathe when you're not in motion and trying to relax.  Worldwide it is estimated that 2 million people -- more than half of them in developing countries -- die every year from air pollution. [3]


Apologizing for the imagined discomfort, I thought we should know a little bit about particle pollution or particulate matter (PM) and how air quality is measured.  ​​


​​Coarse dust particles, referred to as PM10 (see photo left, blue dot), are 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter.  Less coarse particles referred to as PM2.5 (red dot in photo) are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, and can only be seen with an electron microscope. Sources of particulate pollution can include fires, construction sites, and smokestacks.  Most PM forms in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted from power plants and most automobiles. [4]


Let's see an air quality index (AQI) to help us understand levels of PMs in the air.  As you can see below, green indicates healthy levels of air pollutants, and as the colors change toward the red, purple, and maroon colors, the air quality gets more hazardous.  

I've taken a snapshot of a worldwide map of today's air quality here. [5] It only takes a quick glance to notice a huge difference between the air quality colors in Asia and the air quality in North America. 

Let's compare air quality in North America's Silicon Valley to two countries where many of our Buyers in Silicon Valley originate, China and India.  In China in 2016, only 24.9 percent of the 338 cities monitored reached urban air quality standards for the entire year. [6]  As particular note, Zaozhuang, China, and its surrounding area show 999 measured air particulates, two times above the most hazardous measure on the scale! [7]




How about India?  Well, according to a study by Greenpeace [8]*, all north Indian cities fail to meet air quality standards, killing more than one million Indians each year!  On the night of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in 2015, the air over North India was the worst in the world. [9] The latest India air quality map as of today (right) shows no city with healthy air quality. [10]






The closest the Bay Area has gotten to any air quality as inferior as the Asian continents to which I refer was in October of 2017, when we had raging firestorms in Sonoma and Napa Counties, creating an air quality index of 404 for small particulate matter, the worst air quality measured in the Bay Area since 1999.{11]

Not only does one's health feel negative effects of particle pollution, but the environment is also effected with reduced visibility, increased acidity in water bodies and even depletion in the soil with damage to forests and crops. 


Back to the imagination part.  Imagine getting off an airplane in Silicon Valley from one of the places where air pollutants are off the charts and breathing in healthy air.  You smell the freshness, you feel the healthy level of oxygen in your body for the first time.  You imagine the soil being a place to grow your own organic garden. Where would you prefer to spend most of your time?  Where would you prefer to raise your family?  


If your choice is Silicon Valley, where I've lived my entire fifty years of life, and love calling it home, do give me a call.  I'd be happy to call you neighbor.  Learn more at my website.



[1] AirNow.gov as of March 8, 2018

[2] eSchoolToday.com 

[3] World Health Organization

[4] AirNow.gov

[5] Bekeleyearth.org

[6] ChinaDaily.com

[7] aquicn.org

[8] TheGuardian.com

*Further details on India air pollution can be found in the Airpocalypse II report by Greenpeace published January 29, 2018.

[9] Scroll.in

[10] WorldAirQualityIndex

[11] NPR.org




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