Despite making progress in improving the environment, Southern California still has some of the most polluted air in the country, posing a continuing risk of health problems for residents, according to a report released Wednesday.
The American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2014" report says the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside region has the worst ozone pollution problem in the nation, even though Southern California as a whole has seen a sharp improvement in battling ozone over the past 14 years.
"Southern California is home to over 40 percent of all Californians," according to the association. "Coupled with the large population, significant challenges due to weather and geography make improving air quality more quickly difficult in the region. Sunny weather and other conditions in the basin allow smog to form more easily.
"Surrounded by mountains on three sides, pollutants are also easily trapped as stagnant air lingers in the basin. The worst air quality in the region tends to occur in the inland parts of the basin due to strong smog transport patterns from coastal areas."
The report recommended that pollution "hotspots" like freeways, major roadways, ports, rail yards and trucking centers be the focus of additional monitoring. It noted that unhealthy ozone days have dropped by 36 percent since the year 2000, while unhealthy spikes in particulate pollution days fell by 70 percent since 2004. Annual particulate pollution levels, meanwhile, dropped by 46 percent. Those improvements were driven by emission controls on vehicles and restrictions on wood burning, according to the Lung Association.
The report recommended a stronger commitment to zero-emission vehicles and fuels and improved community planning to increase alternatives to driving, such as walking, biking and public transit.
Nationally, the report found that the nation's air quality has worsened between 2010 and 2012, but it "remains overall much cleaner than just a decade ago."
"More than 147.6 million people -- 47 percent of the nation -- live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe, an increase from last year's report," according to the document. "Despite that risk, some seek to weaken the Clean Air Act, the public health law that has driven the cuts in pollution since 1970."
—City News Service