Auto-Related Pollution in Los Angeles Declined 98 Percent Over 50 Years


Levels of some automobile-related pollutants in Los Angeles have plummeted by 98 percent since the 1960s, even as gasoline consumption nearly tripled during the same period, a new study says.

Levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are emitted from the tailpipes of cars and are a key ingredient in ground-level smog, have dropped steadily and fell by about half between 2002 and 2010, researchers found.

“The reason is simple: Cars are getting cleaner,” said Carsten Warneke, a researcher at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California air quality measurements, the scientists calculated that VOC levels declined by an average of 7.5 percent per year. Researchers attributed the steep decline to the required use of catalytic converters, introduction of fuels less prone to evaporate, and improved engine efficiency.

Warneke predicted the decrease in VOC levels in Los Angeles will likely continue as engines become more efficient and older vehicles come off the roads.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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