BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The haze that often settles over Kern County does more than obscure our mountains.

“Small particle matter that goes into your lungs unfortunately damages the lungs over a long period of time,” said Kian Azimian with Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.

Bad air quality is a serious public health hazard. In Kern County, the danger is higher.

Kern’s average air quality is the third-worst in the state, according to The American Lung Association recently gave Kern an F rating – the worst possible – for unhealthy air.

“In this Central Valley, it is a valley,” said Heather Heinks, communication manager with Valley Air District. “We dip down, and so unfortunately many times, the weather systems that pass over our state serve as a lid to trap underneath that system whatever you create in the way of pollution.”

What creates that pollution? In the Central Valley, two major sources: wildfires in the summer, and transportation emissions year-round.

But things are improving.

This graph shows the level of nitrogen-based emissions in the Valley Air District.

There is a major reduction in stationary sources like factories and refineries as pollution regulations have taken effect. But now, the vast majority of these emissions are caused by transportation – which the Valley Air District hopes to cut down.”

Valley Air is working with companies who transport goods through the central valley, pushing them to transition fleets of vehicles to electric or low-emissions. But Heinks said individuals can do their part, too.

“It’s going to take that sort of conversion from the very big shops all the way down to getting that really nice electric vehicle for that one truck shop that needs it,” Heinks said.

Carpooling, cutting idling time and eliminating wood-burning fireplaces are other great ways to save our air.