BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Just look out, or look up, and you’ll see one of the biggest problems for the San Joaquin Valley: poor air quality.
“We have consistently ranked behind Los Angeles for ozone. (It’s) our summertime problem, and particulate matter, which is our wintertime problem,” said Brenda Turner with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District.
Turner said one of the biggest pollution problems is smog that is made up of oxygen, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxides.
There have been efforts to reduce smog, but it’s easier said than done.
“People can do things like drive less, carpool, use transit, a lot people are riding their bikes,” said Turner. “We need everyone’s help, that’s why we talk about everyone making one change to help our air quality improve.”
Thanks to new technology that one change doesn’t have to be that involved.
Boral Roofing is manufacturing smog-eating tiles at its Stockton facility.
The tiles themselves are actually just regular roofing tiles. What makes them special is a coating of titanium dioxide that is what allows the tile to eat the smog.
According to John Renowden, Boral’s vice president of product development, titanium dioxide works with the sun to take the nitrogen oxide out of the air.
Since the nitrogen oxide is gone, smog can’t form.
There’s also another benefit.
“The residue is left on the surface of the tile and washed off by moisture and rain fall,” explained Renowden. When the byproduct washes off it actually acts as a fertilizer for soil.
When it comes to reducing pollution, these little tiles can have a big impact. Renowden said the tiles on a 2,000-square-foot home is the equivalent of 10,000 miles of taking one vehicle off the road.
That process will keep happening year after year, because the titanium dioxide doesn’t wear away.
While redoing an entire roof may be a little too pricey for some, Renowden said the tiles are starting to appear on new developments and there isn’t much of a price difference.
“KB has some homes available where they’ve made this an option,” he said. “The up charge on that is $800 at that particular site.”
The smog-eating tiles’ true pollution impact will come from the number of roofs they’re on, which will take time.
In the meantime, Turner said any little bit helps.
“We all do have to drive to a certain amount, and if we can get new technology to offset the amount we drive. Hopefully we’ll get there sooner rather than later,” she said.
Last year, the San Joaquin Valley was out of compliance seven times when it came to air quality, and was fined $29 million. That bill is being passed off to valley motorists, who will pay an extra $12 in Department of Motor Vehicle fees this year.
More reading here