L.A.’s Famously Smoggy Air Is Losing Its Bite

Strict vehicle-emissions laws have sharply reduced levels of Tinseltown’s celebrated smog.

Even though the number of cars on the road in L.A. has increased three-fold in recent years, smog has never been at a lower level, proving that emissions controls are working. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jun 4, 2013
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

Those of us who live in L.A. suffer through a lot of bad jokes at our city's expense. Vapid celebutants. Shattered dreams. Horrible traffic. And of course, smog.

Except it looks like now all you L.A. haters might have to retire your smog jokes, because a new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recorded a significant drop in smog and air pollution in Southern California since the 1960s. And that's despite the fact that we Angelenos are still married to our cars—according to the BBC there's been a three-fold increase in the number of vehicles on the road.

So what's going on?

Well, it looks like our strict vehicle-emissions laws are actually working. (Take that, California Nanny State haters!)

Not only has air pollution dropped significantly over the past several decades, but the composition of the air has actually changed too. There's now a lot less of the eye irritant peroxyacetyl nitrate, which used to give SoCal's air its famous "sting." Again from the BBC:

"LA's air has lost a lot of its 'sting,'" said lead author Ilana Pollack of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's research centre at the University of Colorado Boulder.

She said the study "confirms that California's policies to control emissions have worked as intended".

Before we break out the champagne (or at least, more than we normally do around these parts), the Beeb drops this little bit of cold water on the celebrations: According to the American Lung Association, we're still the worst city in America for ozone pollution. 

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