The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

« Previous Post | Technology Home | Next Post »

California cars 99% cleaner than in 1960s, but smog levels still high, study says

November 16, 2010 | 10:07 am

Smog Automotive emissions standards in California have resulted in cars that are 99% cleaner than they were 50 years ago, according to a new report. Vehicle-related air pollution in the state is down 85% since 1975. Peak smog levels are down.

But the Golden State still houses the top 10 most polluted counties in the country, Environment California Research & Policy Center said Tuesday in a new study. State officials should update emissions regulations, according to the report.

Still, the air in California is clearer than it's been in past decades, researchers found. Peak smog levels have dropped 70% in Los Angeles since 1980 and 50% in the San Diego and Sacramento areas.

In the 1960s, a typical new car in California produced a ton of smog-forming pollution every 100,000 miles. Today’s vehicles produce 10 pounds on average.

And that’s even as the population and number of drivers has boomed, all clocking more than double the miles -– nearly 1 billion -– that they did three decades ago, according to the report.

Researchers attributed much of the change to a slew of regulations, including some that controlled tailpipe emissions, required development of hybrid vehicles and ushered in other clean automotive technology such as oxygen sensors and catalytic converters.

But passenger cars and trucks still spew out nearly 2 million pounds of air pollution each day, which researchers said could lead to cancer, respiratory disease and high asthma rates. Smog rates surpass state health standards more than a third of the year in Los Angeles, they said.

The emissions could even have have far-reaching consequences for agriculture and the state’s water supply. The study urges California lawmakers to pursue stricter standards that will cut auto emissions to 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.


A clash over auto emission standards

California emission waiver looms for carmakers

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Downtown Los Angeles in 2006. Credit: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times