Southern California Air Pollution Data from the American Lung Association

Southern California Air Pollution Data from the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association ( in “State of the Air 2018” has good data and presentations on US air pollution, and those susceptible to it.  Here, we will cover areas in Southern California.  We will eschew graphs, and just cite their significant figures.

Ozone Pollution

Ozone comes from nitrous oxides and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from fossil fuels like gasoline, making smog.  It is unhealthy, attacking the lungs.  On a list of the top US ozone sites, California has 8 of the top 10, and 10 of the top 15.  In the top ten, we scored

  1. Los Angeles – Long Beach
  2. Bakersfield
  3. Visalia – Porterville – Hanford
  4. Fresno – Madera
  5. Sacramento – Roseville
  6. San Diego – Carlsbad
  7. Modesto – Merced
  8. Phoenix – Mesa – Scottsdale, AZ
  9. Redding – Red Bluff
  10. New York – Newark, NY – NJ – CT – PA

In contrast, the site gives three lists of low pollution cities of various categories.  None of them are in California.

Weighted Averages

The weighted average is formed from three years of data, taking the AQI color index, and weighting orange days by 1.0, red days by 1.5, purple by 2.0, and maroon by 2.5, then dividing by three.

Year-Round Particle Pollution

Here, California scored 7 in the top 10, adding El Centro at #7, and San Jose – San Francisco – Oakland tied for #10.  Los Angeles – Long Beach ranked #4.

When I discuss days per year data, it is for a three-year period starting in the year that I cite.

Los Angeles – Long Beach declined from about 29 days a year in 2000 to 14 days a year in 2014.  Its average was 10, with 24 in the orange and 4 in the red.

Riverside declined from 29 days per year in 2000 to 14 days per year in 2014.  Its average was 13, with 36 in the orange, and 2 in the red.

Orange County has insufficient data to discuss this category historically.  Its average was 2.7, with 8 in the orange.

Short Term Particle Pollution (24 hours)

Here, California scored 7 in the top 10, with the usual suspects.  Los Angeles – Long Beach ranked #7.

Los Angeles – Long Beach declined dramatically from about 105 days a year in 2000 to about 13 days a year in 2014.

Riverside declined dramatically from about 105 days a year in 2000 to about 12 in 2014.

Orange County also declined dramatically from 44 days a year in 2000 to about 3 days a year in 2014.

High Ozone Days

Since 1996, Los Angeles – Long Beach declined from about 230 days a year to about 150 days a year in 2014.  Its weighted average is 111 days, and with the AQI color index, it had 212 in the orange, 73 in the red, and 6 in the purple.

San Bernardino had an average of 146, with 212 in the orange, 126 in the red, and 18 in the purple.

Since 1996, Riverside declined from about 200 days a year to about 120 in 2014.  Its weighted average was 122, with 233 in the orange, 84 in the red, and 3 in the purple.

Orange County declined from 36 days a year in 1996 to 15 in 1999, then rose to 38 in 2003, then declined to 6 in 2010, and again rose to 13 in 2014.  Sunshine causes ozone production, and the latest years have been the warmest.  Its average was 13, with 30 in the orange, 6 in the red, and none in the purple.

Groups at Risk

Since Orange County is my home, I will use that for the example of Groups at Risk.  The total population is 3.2 million.  The largest group at risk is Children Under 18, with 713,000.  Next are Adults 65 and Older, 443,000.  Risks to low income people is 348,000.  Those with Diabetes, 255,000.  Adult Asthma, 193,000.  Cardiovascular disease, 165,000.  COPD, 111,000.  Pediatric Asthma, 55,000.  And Lung Cancer, 1,348.  Of course, people may be included in several categories, which makes their situations worse.  I, myself, scored four categories, which is why I cover air pollution so extensively.

The American Lung Association lists many challenges to the current progressed situation in air quality, and the destruction of goals set by the Obama Administration, by Scott Pruitt, the Trump Administration’s Administrator of the EPA.  Crucially right now, are court cases to preserve California’s exemption to relaxed federal air standards, so that we can continue to pursue those necessary for California.

AIRNow – Central Coastal, CA Air Quality

If you want to see a map of the Los Angeles and surrounding Central and Coastal area, click on this link to AIRNow.  You can also get this to cycle through 24 hours.  The site shows the combined Air Quality Index (AQI), plus separate Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Ozone, Particles PM10 and PM2.5.

Scientifically, our California pollution problems are a phenomena of geology.  We live on land uplifted into mountains created by the collision of the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.  Since we all like to live on the ocean side, all of our smog is trapped by the mountain ranges and the inversion layer.  Banning highly polluting coal and striving for emission controls and highly efficient cars has also put us on the leading edge in America of also limiting greenhouse CO2.





About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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