Acid Fog in California

I used to love fog when I was a kid. I lived in a post-war housing project where all the houses looked the same. But when the coastal fog billowed in, it created a mysterious ambience that inspired my imagination.

Over the last couple years, however, now that I live in the agricultural area of the Salinas Valley near the coast, I have noticed sadly that fog always brings asthma and hayfever. Finally, today, I looked up reports of allergies associated with fog, and what I found hasn’t been good.

Apparently, I live in an acid fog belt. It has been suggested that sudden oak death (which occurs often in foggy areas) might be attributed to acid fog. The Swiss National Science Foundation has found that acid fog can be damaging to forests. And a study in Japan reports “adverse respiratory effects” occuring in acid fog areas.

We just had a couple of lovely sunny days in the Elkhorn area when I was nearly asthma/hayfever free, and now that the fog has rolled in—well, I’m sitting here typing, and listening to my lungs wheeze. Once upon a time, I would go out walking in the mist when I had asthma, because the humidity seemed to help (asthmatics: remember humidifiers?). But that has changed.

The fog-induced allergies could be due to other things—it may be that my lungs are just hypersensitive to wet, cold air, or that the humidity of the area carries mold that I’m allergic to. So I can’t pinpoint the cause. It may be a combination of all these things.

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