Despite increasingly draconian car-smog tests that practically require your vehicle to be in perfect operating order (with the check engine light off — a gift to the auto repair industry at a time of unprecedented quality from carmakers), L.A.'s air is cleaner than ever.
Vehicle air pollution has decreased a whopping 98 percent since the1960s, says a study published last week in the Journal of Geophysical Research:
In fact, during much of the last decade car pollution of the type called “volatile organic compounds (VOCs)” was cut in half in the L.A. basin, according to the study, which was led by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers.
Yeah, the place that used to be the butt of smog jokes is now clean-living, apparently. NOAA states:
Requirements for catalytic converters, use of reformulated fuels less prone to evaporate, and improved engine efficiency of new vehicles have all likely contributed to overall declines in vehicle-related pollution …
NOAA scientist Carsten Warneke:
The reason is simple: Cars are getting cleaner … Even on the most polluted day during a research mission in 2010, we measured half the VOCs we had seen just eight years earlier. The difference was amazing.”
But while these vehicle pollutants have decreased dramatically, L.A.'s ozone problem persists. Our ozone levels, in fact, still don't pass federal standards, NOAA says.
Still, researchers note that the difference in the last 50 years is visible. Days when you couldn't see the mountains as a result of smog were many in the past. Today? You can see clearly now.