This year’s report shows significant progress in efforts to reduce ozone and particulate pollution, with air quality in many areas of California at its cleanest since the Lung Association’s annual report began 14 years ago. The findings reinforce the effectiveness of the state’s strong clean air laws and progressive initiatives including incentive programs that help reduce diesel emissions and promote cleaner vehicles and fuels.
“The State of the Air 2013 report shows that California is continuing the long-term trend to cleaner and much healthier air,” said Jane Warner, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in California. “This progress in cleaning up air pollution demonstrates that our clean air laws are working. However, our report also shows that air pollution continues to put lives at risk throughout the state. We must step up our efforts to cut pollution so all Californians can breathe clean, healthy air. “
Nearly ninety percent of Californians still live in counties plagued with unhealthy air, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and Sacramento. That means people are at greater risk for asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death. Although many counties show lower levels of air pollution compared to last year’s report, California cities still dominate lists of the most polluted areas in the nation for ozone (smog) as well as short-term and annual particle pollution. Specifically, of the top ten cities with the worst air pollution, California municipalities rank as follows:
7 out of the Top 10
#1 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside
#6 Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Yuba City
#10 El Centro
Short-Term Particle Pollution
6 out of the Top 10
#4 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside
Annual Particle Pollution
8 out of the Top 10
#1 Merced (tied with Bakersfield)
#4 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside (tied with Hanford-Corcoran)
#9 El Centro
Despite these rankings, many California cities continue to show significant improvements in reducing unhealthy ozone and particulate pollution. California’s slow yet steady progress toward healthy air can be attributed to its strong history of leadership on air and climate policies, including the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown. Governor Brown’s work to champion zero emission vehicle and clean fuel policies, including the ZEV Action Plan and California’s alternative fuels standard (Low Carbon Fuel Standard), is moving California forward to cleaner air and bringing more transportation choices.
The Los Angeles region in particular shows noteworthy success in reducing both ozone and particulate pollution over the 14 years of the State of the Air report. Ozone levels in the region have fallen by 36 percent since the first State of the Air report in 2000, with unhealthy ozone days dropping from 190 to 122 days during that time period. Annual levels of particle pollution have also dropped by 43 percent, and short term levels dropped by two-thirds, despite recent fluctuations. The Los Angeles region now is very close to meeting the federal annual particle pollution standard. Dramatic reductions in ozone and particle pollution have also occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area. While the San Joaquin Valley still struggles with particle pollution, most parts of the Valley have seen marked reductions in ozone pollution.
California’s pollution problems are primarily caused by emissions from transportation sources including cars, diesel trucks and buses, locomotives, ships, agricultural and construction equipment. Currently, the American Lung Association in California is sponsoring Senate Bill 11 (Pavley) and Assembly Bill 8 (Perea and Skinner), two bills that will help clean the air and improve public health by extending two highly successful California air quality incentive programs for another decade and raising over $200 million in incentive funds annually. These programs support the transition to cleaner vehicles and the clean alternative fuels needed to meet state clean air and climate targets and provide near-term benefits by cutting toxic diesel pollution. These programs are an important complement to the state’s regulatory framework because they provide financial incentives for early introduction of clean vehicles and technologies.
Air pollution problems also are caused by emissions from oil refineries, manufacturing plants, and residential wood burning. In addition, California’s warm climate promotes the formation of ozone pollution, and valleys and mountains in the central and eastern portions of the state trap pollution where it can linger for days and put residents at risk for the onset or exacerbation of lung disease.
“Ozone and particle pollution contribute to thousands of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and deaths every year and our most vulnerable citizens are most at risk – children, the elderly and those with lung disease such as asthma, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema,” said David Tom Cooke, M.D., Assistant Professor, Section Head of General Thoracic Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of California, Davis Medical Center and Governing Board Member for the American Lung Association in California. “Cleaner air saves lives, and can lead to better health and quality of life for everyone.”
The Lung Association led the fight for a new, national air quality standard that strengthened outdated limits on annual levels of particle pollution, announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last December. Now the Lung Association is fighting for a strong national clean car standard and defending the Federal Clean Air Act, our nation’s bedrock clean air law. Thanks to national air pollution standards set under the Clean Air Act and the EPA enforcement of these standards, as well as California’s own groundbreaking air quality policies, the U.S. has seen continued reductions in air pollution.
“California must continue to demonstrate leadership in achieving clean and healthy air for all residents,” said Warner. “This can be done by supporting statewide initiatives such as Senate Bill 11 and Assembly Bill 8, and by making an effort to reduce air pollution in our own communities. Driving less, using cleaner transportation options like hybrid cars and electric vehicles, and avoiding wood burning, can make a huge difference in improving the air we breathe.” For more information on the American Lung Association State of the Air Report and a list of steps individuals can take to clean the air, the public should visit http://www.lung.org/california.
About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting For Air” through research, education, and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit http://www.lung.org/california.