As early as the 1940s, a dense haze menacingly hovered over Los Angeles. It took scientists a few years before they discovered that vehicles were the culprit of the city's prevalent air pollution. For decades, the citizens of LA suffered from the exposure to dangerous chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, and by the early 2000s the rates of childhood asthma was 14% compared to the national average of 10%.
When the population of Los Angeles increased and urban sprawl transformed the landscape of the coastal basin, the dependency on the automobile as the main form of transportation also escalated. Los Angeles became even more at risk to air pollution. In order to address this rapidly growing issue, the state of California has passed several laws and regulations; a series of proactive steps taken after the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. And over the time, the skyline has become more defined and the air more safer to breathe.
The California Legislature established the Air Resources Board with the goals of attaining and maintaining clean air, researching the causes of air pollution, and solving the issues caused by motor vehicles. Since it was established prior to the federal Clean Air Act, California is the only state allowed to have its own environmental regulatory agency.
Governor Ronald Reagan urged residents to "limit all but absolutely necessary auto travel". Schools were routinely shut down during the smog alert days. To put the smog levels into perspective, and Stage 3 smog alert during this era would be equivalent to a Stage 1 alert today.
This statute was passed shortly after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). CEQA mandates an environmental analysis before projects can be approved. Throughout the past four decades, CEQA has saved both natural landscapes and historical monuments throughout the state of California. It also insures that the public is engaged in such decisions that could impact their environment.
California's population reaches 30 million people as an increase of workers are needed to support the state's economy. There are 17 million registered vehicles and the vehicle miles traveled is 155 billion. Urban sprawl, traffic, and pollution started to become an even bigger issue.
Vehicles were identified to see if they were in need of maintenance and to assure effectiveness of their emission control systems.
Lung autopsies showed that out of 1,100 victims of accidents or homicides, 27 percent were found to have severely damaged lungs due to air pollutants.
After the ARB approved standards for cleaner burning gasoline and low/zero emission vehicles, cleaning burning gasoline came to market. Oxygenates became a required additive in gasoline, and as a result, carbon monoxide emissions were cut by 10%.
This mandate passed by the California Air Resources Board mandated the seven major automobile suppliers in the US to commit to selling Zero Emission Vehicles. Companies, such as GM, manufactured cars that were to be specifically leased to residents of Los Angeles.
Studies showed that consumer product regulations reduced smog-forming emissions to 60 tons a day compared to 250 tons a day in 1995.
Despite an increase in population of 34 million people and 23.4 million cars compared to 30 million people and 23 million cars in 1990, the area has no Stage 1 Smog Alerts compared to 42 alerts a decade before.
During the months of August and September, Los Angeles County experienced its largest and deadliest wildfire, which burned 160,577 acres and destroyed 209 structures. The carbon monoxide from the smoke was lofted 8.3 kilometers into the atmosphere and spread as far east as the Louisiana Gulf Coast across the United States.
All owners of single-family homes with an attached garage or a fossil fuel source are required to install carbon monoxide detectors by July 1, 2011. Owners of multi-family leased or rental dwellings have until January 1, 2013.
Try walking or riding a bike. Not only is this 100% free of emissions, but it’s also healthy for you! Or you can try taking public transportation or carpooling for lesser traffic. If you can’t avoid using your car, be sure to maintain and tune up your car so that it always runs efficiently.
And in honor of Earth Day, plant a tree! Trees can reduce smog levels by cooling the environment.