Southland Has Worst Smog in the Country: Report

The Southland was rated the worst in the country for smog days last year according to a new report released Wednesday.

110 days out of last year, the Riverside-San Bernardino metro area had unhealthy air making it the smoggiest in the country, according to a report titled "Danger in the Air: Unhealthy Air Days in 2010 and 2011'' by Environment California.

The area also experienced  24 "red-alert"” days where the air quality was so poor that anyone could experience adverse health effects, the report said.

Los Angeles, with 69 "smog days'' tied with Bakersfield as the third smoggiest metro area in the country.

The Visalia-Tulare- Porterville metro area north of Bakersfield, was the second smoggiest, with 78 days.

The report counted a "smog day'' when at least one air-quality monitor detected ozone levels beyond the national standard.  Auto emissions were the primary contributor to air pollution, said Environment California spokesman Sean Carroll.

But the problem may be worse than people think, according to Environment California.

"The public isn't aware of how bad the problem is, because the EPA standards are outdated,'' said Carroll.

Los Angeles would have seen an additional 32 smog days last year, had the tighter ozone regulations been in place, the report found.

"Unfortunately, rather than acting decisively to protect our kids from dangerous air pollution, President Obama chose to kick the can down the road,'' Carroll said.

An EPA advisory board of scientists recommended toughening the standards, and President Barack Obama had proposed tighter regulations. However, under intense pressure from the business sector and Republicans, Obama changed course this month. He asked the EPA to scrap the new regulations, which the agency estimated would have saved 12,000 lives per year but cost the economy $90 billion annually.

The regulations would have tightened ozone standards to a range of 60-70 parts per billion, down from the 2008 standard proposed by President George W. Bush of 75 parts per billion.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey, said the report "confirms what we already know,'' but called the findings unacceptable.

 "In Los Angeles, we know that smog is a major threat to the health of our families. Over 700,000 people in our city suffer from asthma, including 165,000 children,'' she said.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, said the city had made great strides over the years to achieve clean air, "but this new report underscores the need to do more to protect American families from air pollution.''

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