Environment & Science

Study: Car pollution plummets in LA basin, improving air quality

Despite more cars on the road, LA's air is much cleaner, a new report says.
Despite more cars on the road, LA's air is much cleaner, a new report says.
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L.A.'s love of car culture isn’t weighing nearly as heavily on our air quality as it once did. A new study released Thursday says pollution from exhaust pipes has plummeted in recent years, helping dramatically reduce auto-based pollutants in our skies.

We still have bad-air-quality days in the L.A. basin — some of the worst in the nation, in fact. But there is good news: compared to 50 years ago, the levels of many car-based air pollutants in Angeleno skies is down by a whopping 98 percent. And that's despite the fact that many more cars are now on the road, according to the study, which is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The NOAA study also indicates that some of the greatest air quality gains have come about since 2002. Study co-author, Carsten Warneke says levels of auto-emitted pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and propane dropped by half since 2002.

"Cars are getting cleaner and every model year is more efficient," Warneke says. "And if cars are getting more efficient they also burn cleaner and emit less pollutants into the atmosphere."

A bit more good news: As newer cars continue to replace older models, Warneke expects L.A.'s air to become even easier to breathe.