Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

SoCal's heat makes air pollution more dangerous

by Austin Cross and A Martínez | Take Two®

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Downtown Los Angeles is shrouded in early morning coastal fog on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Southern California is having its smoggiest summer in nearly a decade and hospitals report an increase of people with breathing problems. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel) Richard Vogel/AP

Summer officially begins tomorrow, but the heat is already here. And when temperatures spike, air quality plummets. It doesn't help that five separate brush fires are burning across the region.

Why does smog get worse when the heat goes up? Take Two put that question to Patrick Chandler with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, or AQMD.

The AQMD issued a warning last week about smog. What should we be aware of?

When we have really hot weather like we're having this week, it's expected that the air quality could either be unhealthy to very unhealthy. It covers a very large area from the Santa Clarita Valley to the San Gabriel Mountains, all the way out to southwestern San Bernardino and western Riverside County. 

So you can't escape it? 

Usually, we'll have a more concentrated unhealthy to very unhealthy area, but because of this heat wave, it's really spreading through a large area in the South Coast Basin.  

Why does the smog get worse when the weather heats up?

What we have is an inversion layer. All that ozone higher up in the atmosphere is fine. The ozone that's close to where we are — ground level — gets trapped and heats up. It cooks, basically, and instead of it dispersing out into the atmosphere, it stays close to the ground. It leaves us all with unhealthy to very unhealthy air. 

What does smog do and how can people stay safe?

It can irritate the respiratory system. It can reduce lung function. It can inflame and damage cells in the lining of the lung. It can aggravate asthma. Those with chronic diseases or chronic bronchitis, it can irritate their lungs. 

During this time it's best to check the air quality before you go out and reduce a lot of outdoor play or vigorous activity. 

Press the blue play button above to hear more tips from the AQMD's Patrick Chandler.

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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