State of the Air 2014 Puts Long Beach on List With Unhealthy Air

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This morning, the American Lung Association released State of the Air 2014, an annual report on air quality which lists both the cleanest and most polluted areas in the country. This year’s report shows continued progress in efforts to reduce ozone and particle pollution, and reinforces the importance of the state’s strong clean air leadership in reducing the public’s exposure to harmful air. At the same time, the report shows that substantial challenges remain to achieving the goal of clean air for everyone in California. Successful state and local programs are protecting the public from diesel particulate emissions, promoting zero emission vehicles and healthier communities with transportation choices, and ratcheting down on wood smoke pollution. 

“The State of the Air 2014 report shows that California’s clean air laws and initiatives are working,” said Marsha Ramos, Chair, American Lung Association in California. “However, almost eighty percent of Californians –30 million residents – live in areas plagued with unhealthy air during certain parts of the year. That means residents exposed to pollution are at greater risk for lung cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature deaths. We must increase our efforts to cut pollution so all Californians can breathe clean and healthy air.”

Although many counties show lower levels of air pollution, California cities still dominate lists for the most polluted areas in the nation for ozone (smog) as well as short-term and annual particle pollution. Overall, California experienced small increases in the number of ozone polluted days compared to last year’s report, but had more consistent reductions in short-term particle days and lower year-round particle levels. Specifically, of the top ten cities in the nation with the worst air pollution, California municipalities rank as follows:

Ozone Pollution
6 out of the “Top” 10
Short-Term Particle Pollution
6 out of the “Top” 10
Annual Particle Pollution
6 out of the “Top” 10
#1 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside #1 Fresno-Madera #1 Fresno-Madera
#2 Visalia-Porterville-Hanford #2 Visalia-Porterville-Hanford #2 Visalia-Porterville-Hanford
#3 Bakersfield #3 Bakersfield #3 Bakersfield
#4 Fresno-Madera #4 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside #3 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside
(tied with Bakersfield)
#5 Sacramento-Roseville #5 Modesto-Merced #5 Modesto-Merced
#7 Modesto-Merced #10 San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland-Stockton #7 El Centro

Despite these rankings, many California cities continue to show significant improvements in reducing unhealthy ozone and particle pollution. The Los Angeles region has reduced more than one-third of its unhealthy ozone days in the last fifteen years, and dramatic reductions in ozone and particle pollution also have occurred in San Diego, Sacramento, and Bakersfield. In addition, Salinas, Redding-Red Bluff, and Santa Maria-Santa Barbara were listed among some of the cleanest municipalities in the nation based on low to zero unhealthy levels of ozone, short-term, and particle pollution. Fresno-Madera was identified as the metropolitan area with the most particle pollution in the nation (for both short-term and annual particle pollution) as a result of new air quality monitoring in Madera County as well as weather fluctuations, illustrating a greater problem than has been previously reported in the area. This new data highlights the need for a strong monitoring network to better inform and protect the public.

The appearance of the Greater Bay Area among the top ten most polluted areas for short term particle pollution was driven by the incorporation of San Joaquin County in this area as part of a re-designation of the federal Combined Statistical Area delineated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This inclusion resulted in a significant increase in unhealthy days for ozone and particle pollution reported in the region. Without this change in data, the number of unhealthy days in the Bay Area metropolitan region would have been significantly lower.

California’s pollution problems are primarily caused by emissions from transportation sources including cars, diesel trucks and buses, locomotives, ships, and agricultural equipment. Air pollution problems also are caused by emissions from oil refineries, manufacturing plants, and residential wood burning. California’s warm climate promotes the formation of ozone pollution, and valleys and mountains in the central and eastern portions of the state trap pollution where it can linger for days and put residents at risks for the onset or exacerbation of lung disease.

“Air pollution remains a pervasive public health threat, contributing to thousands of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and deaths every year to our most vulnerable citizens – children, the elderly and those with lung disease such as lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema,” said Alexander Sherriffs, MD, a family physician in Fresno and volunteer physician of the American Lung Association in California. “Cleaner air saves lives, and can lead to better health and quality of life for everyone.”

California’s steady progress toward healthy air can be attributed to its strong history of leadership on air and climate policies. A combination of strict passenger vehicle tailpipe and zero emission vehicle (ZEV) technology standards, heavy duty diesel truck and bus rules, clean fuels and smart growth “sustainable communities strategies” help reduce the impacts of transportation pollution on our air and our climate. However, more needs to be done.

On the federal level, the Lung Association calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve the quality of air by strengthening outdated standards for ozone pollution, cleaning up residential wood burning devices, and cleaning up power plants. The Lung Association continues also to defend the Federal Clean Air Act, our nation’s bedrock clean air law. Thanks to national air pollution standards set under the Clean Air Act and the EPA enforcement of these standards, as well as California’s own groundbreaking air quality policies, the U.S. has seen continued reductions in air pollution.

On the state level, California must continue to support the transition to clean, low carbon transportation technologies and fuels and a clean energy economy. “California must continue to demonstrate leadership in achieving clean and healthy air for all residents,” said Dr. Sherriffs. “This can be done by supporting innovative statewide initiatives like SB 1275 (DeLeon) that requires California to charge ahead and plan for one million electric vehicles by 2023. As individuals, we can all make a difference with efforts to reduce air pollution in our own communities. Driving less, using cleaner transportation options like hybrid cars and electric vehicles, and avoiding wood burning, can make a huge difference in improving the air we breathe.” For more information on the American Lung Association State of the Air Report and a list of steps individuals can take to clean the air, the public should visit

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