SACRAMENTO – Each year, as the weather warms, the Central Valley routinely exceeds state and federal clean air standards.
"The Sacramento region has had the fifth-worst air quality in the country," said Eric Guerra, the Board Chair for the Sacramento Metro Air Quality District.
And the smoggy skies can cause serious health problems.
"Those small particulates go into the lungs and into our bloodstream," Guerra said.
Sacramento's worst air pollution in recent years has been caused by wildfire smoke.
But the number of bad-air days caused by ground-level ozone, which comes from cars and businesses, is going down.
"Air quality has consistently improved over the last decade," said Emily Allshouse from the Sacramento Metro Air Quality District.
Local leaders say it's a result of the millions of dollars being spent to help reduce greenhouse gasses.
"We've electrified a lot of our equipment and helped make both Sacramento and Elk Grove the largest electric school bus fleet in the nation," Guerra said.
Air districts have also launched zero-emission car share programs and grants to replace wood-burning fireplaces.
"Clean air is something that sometimes we take for granted," Guerra said.
The annual California Clean Air Day encourages people to try walking, biking, carpooling, or using public transit – which will be free in many areas on Wednesday.
"It makes it easier for them to try the train for the first time," said Jessica Gonzalez with Sacramento Regional Transit. "It's surprising how many people live in the Sacramento area and have never tried light rail before."
Air quality officials say the small changes can really add up.
"If we do nothing, our kids are going to bear the brunt of poor air quality [and] poor lung development, and our seniors are going to be affected more as well," Guerra said.
Yolo, San Joaquin, Vacaville, and El Dorado transit districts are also offering free rides on Wednesday.
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