That’s not to say there hasn’t been improvement. Anybody who was around during the dark days of the 1970s when brown skies were as common as blue in L.A. can attest to that. Since 2000 alone, the number of unhealthy ozone days in the region has dropped by 38 percent.
But the American Lung Assn. says that more than 70 percent of Californians – 28 million people – still live in counties where the air turns foul at least some times during the year. Most of those folks are in Southern California.
Meanwhile, the drought has led to an uptick in particle pollution in the state, especially in the San Joaquin Valley. The Central Valley is catching up, but the L.A-Long Beach-Riverside region still has the worst ozone pollution problem in the country, according to the Lung Assn. Most of the gunk in the air comes from auto, train and ship emissions. Agricultural operations and oil refineries are also big sources of particle pollution.
The Lung Assn.’s “State of the Air” report recommends a stronger commitment to zero-emission vehicles and fuels, as well as better community planning to increase alternatives to driving – like walking, biking and public transit.