A new study by state air regulators says that risk of getting cancer because of toxic air in California dropped by 76 percent over a span of more than two decades.
The authors of the report say the decrease in pollution is due to stringent regulations on everything from trucks and gasoline vapors to emissions from dry cleaning businesses.
Air quality in California – and especially Los Angeles – has been steadily improving over the past few decades. The new study breaks ground by linking declines in toxic compounds in the air to specific policies. For example, when California reformulated its gasoline in the mid-1990s, benzene levels in the air dropped immediately.
The study covered the 23-year period between 1990 and 2012. It looked at levels of seven contaminants that are the most responsible for elevating cancer risks.
The reduction in air pollution came even as the state’s population increased and all those people drove more miles in their cars.
Earlier this year, the Air Resources Board said the California was on track to reduce emission levels to 1990 levels by 2020, putting the state in compliance with a law that was passed back in 2006.
Still, it’s not all good news. Despite the improvement, Southern California’s air pollution is still the worst in the country. More than 70 percent of Californians live in counties affected by bad air. And the American Lung Association says drought and climate change are threatening to undo some of the gains we’ve made clearing the air.