View of the San Francisco Bay from the Berkeley Hills on August 10, 2021. Credit: Clara Mokri

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is warning of high pollution Tuesday, issuing its third “Spare the Air” alert of the year.

Smoke from the Six Rivers Lighting Complex Fire in Humboldt and Trinity counties, coupled with hot inland temperatures and vehicle exhaust, are expected to cause unhealthy ozone pollution, or smog, accumulation in the Bay Area, including Berkeley. 

“Ozone occasionally builds to unhealthy concentrations in the Bay Area when automobile exhaust and other combustion sources and gasses combine on longer hot summer days,” said Aaron Richardson, spokesperson for BAAQMD. “Wildfire smoke can also be a contributor to the chemical reactions in the atmosphere that lead to ozone buildup.” 

When a Spare the Air alert is in place, people are urged to limit driving and work remotely if possible, as exposure to smog may cause respiratory irritation, make it more difficult to breathe and aggravate asthma, according to BAAQMD. 

For Monday, the air quality management district issued an air quality advisory, as Northern California wildfires are causing hazy and smoky skies across parts of the Bay Area. It did not issue a Spare the Air alert on Monday, as pollutant levels were not “expected to exceed the national 24-hour health standard.” 

The air quality index is not expected to rise above the moderate  “yellow” level Monday or Tuesday in the East Bay, according to the BAAQMD forecast. Those who are “unusually sensitive to particulate pollution” should consider shortening the amount of time they spend active outdoors today. 

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s monitoring station in Aquatic Park — the only one in Berkeley — was vandalized in October 2021 and has been offline ever since. Richardson said the district hopes to have it working by the end of August. “It is collecting data again that will be backfilled online when it fully resumes operation,” Richardson said. 

Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...