Legislation on Ports and Diesel Needed to Improve Air
California’s Aggressive Laws on Auto Emissions Have Led to Improvements
From the American Lung Association of California
California cities and counties continue to dominate the list of places with the worst air pollution in the national American Lung Association State of the Air: 2007 report released today. The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside metropolitan area continues to sit atop the list of most polluted cities for 24-hour particle pollution, annual particle pollution. and ozone pollution levels. Riverside County ranked worst nationwide for particle pollution, as did San Bernardino County for ozone pollution. By contrast, Salinas ranked as one of the three cleanest cities in the nation for ozone and both measurements of particle pollution.
You can click on a chart to see how your locality fares.
Twenty-six of California’s 52 counties with air quality monitoring stations received failing grades. California counties receiving F grades on one or more of the three pollutant lists (in alphabetical order) are: Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Shasta, Stanislaus, Tulare and Ventura.
“We see improvement in some areas of the state, but the level of particle and ozone pollution in California remains dangerously high,” said Tony Gerber, MD, an American Lung Association of California volunteer. “Too many Californians are breathing unhealthy air. Science clearly shows that air pollution is hazardous, even deadly, at levels we once thought were safe.” Dr. Gerber is a pulmonary specialist and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
Many California counties remain among the most burdened by ozone and particle pollution in the nation. However, there were overall many fewer high pollution days than in previous reports. California counties also were among the most improved nationwide; for example, 32 counties dropped their year-round particle pollution levels. California’s improvements came while much of the eastern U.S. suffered increases in particle pollution.
“The good news is that the air is generally cleaner. California’s aggressive steps, especially controls on auto emissions, have measurably reduced air pollution. Yet, we remain concerned because the science shows that millions are still at risk from ozone pollution,” Gerber said. “Breathing ozone smog threatens serious health risks, including premature death. So to really protect Californians from ozone smog, we need EPA to set tighter standards for ozone at levels that would protect public health as the Clean Air Act requires.”
The California Air Resources Board has adopted the tightest ozone standards in the country, and EPA needs to meet or improve on these standards to ensure protection for everyone. Tighter federal standards help California because regulations adopted under those standards are legally enforceable under the federal Clean Air Act.
The American Lung Association State of the Air: 2007 ranks cities and counties most polluted by ozone (commonly called smog), 24-hour particle pollution, and annual particle pollution (often referred to as soot), and reports county-by-county populations at risk from unhealthful levels of the most dangerous forms of air pollution.
While air pollution is unsafe for everyone, some people are at increased risk because of their age or health situation. Those groups include people with asthma, adults 65 and older, children under 18, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD – chronic bronchitis and emphysema) and anyone with cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
“The American Lung Association is fighting for tougher federal standards because they protect Americans from dangerous levels of air pollution,” Gerber said. “Air pollution shortens lifespan, it lands our children and elderly in emergency rooms, and it can make children and teens more vulnerable to lung disease for the rest of their lives.”
“Not only are these pollutants a direct threat to our health, they contribute to global warming. Rising temperatures due to global warming are expected substantially increase air pollution and pollution-related threats to lung health,” said Gerber, who worked to pass Assembly Bill 32, landmark legislation that places a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
Stepping up our efforts to control diesel pollution sources and other pollutants will significantly contribute to slowing global warming and provide health benefits. California must work hard to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases. The American Lung Association of California strongly supports efforts to combat global warming and implement greenhouse gas reduction measures including AB 1493 (Pavley) and AB 32 (Nunez and Pavley).
California has 16 of the 25 most ozone polluted counties, 9 of the 25 counties most polluted with short-term particle pollution and 7 of the 25 counties most polluted with year-round particle pollution. In addition, the state has nine of the 25 most ozone polluted cities, 8 of the 25 cities most polluted with short-term particle pollution and five of the 25 cities most polluted year-round by particle pollution.
“Reducing air pollution should concern all Californians because air pollution travels,” said Gerber. “This ‘secondhand smog’ drifts into other communities.”
State of the Air 2007 analyzes air quality measurements made by state and local agencies and reported to the EPA for the years 2003 through 2005, the most current, quality-assured data available nationwide.
“This report underscores the need for every one of us to take steps to reduce air pollution. That means driving less and driving cleaner vehicles that emit fewer pollutants,” said Gerber. “We also need to encourage policymakers to adopt tougher air quality measures.”
Lung Association Targets Pollution from Goods Movement
Transportation is California’s single biggest source of air pollution. Goods movement (trucks, trains and boats) shipping raw materials and finished products, dominates transportation emissions, according to the California Air Resources Board. The American Lung Association of California is working to reduce these diesel emissions. With three major ports and many other smaller ports in California, increased international trade is expected to cause a dramatic rise in port traffic over the next 15 years, which would clearly lead to even more pollution.
The American Lung Association is urging the EPA to quickly adopt strong regulations that would force the clean up of new trains and boats nationwide. The American Lung Association of California supports user fees to fund programs to replace and upgrade diesel vehicles and equipment used at ports, including Senate Bill 974 (Lowenthal), which would place a fee on every shipping container processed at ports in Los Angeles and Oakland. The American Lung Association of California is also co-sponsoring AB 233 (Jones) to step up measures to enforce diesel control regulations such as anti-idling requirements and to increase fines on violators.
The American Lung Association of California continues to encourage governments, companies and individuals to switch to cleaner-fueled vehicles such as electric, natural gas, or some electric-hybrid models.
Air Pollution Hurts Our Lungs and Threatens Public Health
Ozone air pollution is a powerful corrosive gas that can actually cause chemical burns and scarring of lung tissue. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pains, wheezing and coughing. Ozone can also exacerbate lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Recent studies have found that breathing ozone, even for a short time, can increase the risk of dying early.
Particle pollution refers to the fine particles that enter the air primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, wood smoke, and agricultural burning. Prevailing winds can transport fine particles hundreds of miles in the atmosphere.
When inhaled, the tiny particles can lodge deep into the lungs. Breathing even relatively low levels of particle pollution increases the risk of premature death. Research has also linked particle pollution to lung cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes as well as increased admissions to the hospital for respiratory and heart conditions. Recent research has also linked exposure to relatively low levels of particle pollution with premature death. More than four million school absence days are linked to particle pollution, according to the California Air Resources Board.
To see the grades for the air quality in your community in the American Lung AssociationState of the Air: 2007 report and learn how you can protect yourself and your family from air pollution, visit www.californialung.org. While you’re there, you can send a message to the U.S. EPA to set more protective standards for ozone and other pollutants.