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Low-income Nipomo, Oceano residents eligible for free air purifiers

Randol White - KCBX News

South San Luis Obispo County has historically seen some of the worst air quality in the nation.

Now, a new pilot program will provide 600 South County homes with High-Efficiency Particulate Air purifiers, or HEPA purifiers, which can reduce particulate matter by more than 90 percent.

Arroyo Grande City Council Member and Air Pollution Control District Board Member Jimmy Paulding introduced the idea for the program.

He said one of the goals is to help residents who are exposed to some of the worst air in SLO County from wildfire smoke and blowing dust and sand.

“That’s in South County, specifically in Oceano and the Nipomo Mesa, where we have particulate matter that emanates from the Oceano Dunes, which results in federal and state exceedances of the federal, state air quality standards,” Paulding said.

He said low-income Oceano and Nipomo Mesa residents are at an even higher health risk.

“Those low-income residents that maybe wouldn’t otherwise buy a HEPA purifier because of income limitations — they’re trying to determine whether they’re going to pay rent or buy food. They’re certainly not going to have the additional resources to buy a purifier,” Paulding said.

He said not every member of the APCD was on board with distributing the purifiers for free. But he said it’s the mission of the APCD to help provide clean air to those who need it.

Paulding said addressing vulnerable community members first, like seniors, children and farmworkers, is crucial. Though, he said the goal is to expand the program to the rest of SLO County.

The APCD plans to partner with local nonprofits and community groups to plan a multi-language pop-up where income-eligible households will be able to pick-up HEPA purifiers for free.

Paulding said there is no set date yet for the pop-up, but the goal is to have HEPA purifiers distributed by spring.

For more information about how to use a HEPA filter in your home, click here.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.