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I'm from the country, meaning growing up we didn't have high pollution days or smog of any kind unless a neighbor was clearing his field for planting. I don't recall ever having a day where I thought about pollution. Now I live in Chicago and know exactly what a bad air quality morning looks like. Most major cities in the United States have somewhat of a pollution problem, but a recent study shows that one city has the worst air quality of anywhere in the country.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the city that gives the paper its name is the worst smog offender in the entire country. The city apparently violates federal levels of ozone an average of 122 days per year. That's quite a lot of days to have really horrible air to breathe, and I'm guessing the other days aren't so great either. The information was published by the American Lung Association. The organization claims that Los Angeles and the surrounding Central Valley's efforts to get rid of more pollutants just haven't been enough. I'm sure everyone has seen at least one photo of the smog filled LA skyline, but I had no idea it was so bad.
Ozone is the stuff that makes up smog , and soot is made of particles that accumulate mostly in cooler months. The report evaluated these two factors separately. So, while California came in fourth for most particulates behind other Californian cities for short term spikes in particulates, their air quality was overall abysmal enough to still come in first. Shockingly, the air quality has actually improved by one third over the past fifteen years. I can't even imagine how hard it was to breathe back then in the city of Angels. Despite improvements, there are still about 30 million California residents inhalingbad air, or 77% of the state's entire population. And unfortunately 147 million folks across the country are experiencing something that's quite similar.
Across the country, it seems that air quality has actually improved a lot in recent years. Emissions of pollution into the air has dropped significantly, even as the population has grown. We have stricter regulations on car emissions and coal firing plants to thank for being able to breathe a little easier. There are also efforts being pushed by the EPA to tighten up standards even further on how many parts per billion of ozone is allowed. The Clean Air Act states that every five years, the levels must be evaluated to see where we are with air quality across the country. I'm guessing not every city will ever clean up to be as pristine as country air, but I do hope at least one day we can have air that isn't making people sick.