RICHMOND (KCBS) – Air monitors in the Bay Area aren’t designed to test for many of the pollutants that filled the air following fires like the recent one at the Chevron refinery, which has regulators looking for more efficient ways to gauge air safety.

Initially, both Chevron and local air regulators said there wasn’t anything chemically dangerous in the smoke that spewed from the fire two weeks ago, yet there were 11,000 visits to emergency rooms from people complaining of breathing problems.

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KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

This may have been from particulates, tiny bits that can cause long-term lung issues and bronchitis. But Lisa Fasano, spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said it’s harder to get a real time measurement of particulates in the air.

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“The way the particulates are measured is we take the filters out of the air sampling equipment. They come back and we actually do particulate counts,” said Fasano. “So we knock the particulates out of the filters themselves. That test takes a little bit more time.”

Those results are expected back any day now. But critics including Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioa, who is chair of the Air District’s Board of Directors, are asking for a better system that can offer real time monitoring of particulates after a release.

That would give emergency room doctors a better idea of what’s affecting the community and give victims more information with which to recoup damages.

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