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Los Angeles Vehicle-Related Pollution Has Dropped 98% Since the 1960s

Los Angeles traffic

Despite the fact that gasoline consumption has tripled since the 1960s, a new study says levels of some vehicle-related pollutants in Los Angeles have dropped as much as 98% in the past 50 years. That’s quite the indication that cars now are a heck of a lot cleaner than they were back in the 60s.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nasty chemicals emitted from the tailpipes of cars, are some of the main ingredients in ground-level smog. The amount of VOCs in the air has been steadily dropping and has been cut nearly in half between 2002 and 2010. Other VOCs such as propane and methane have not been dropping as quickly, but these are not emitted from vehicle-related sources. There is still work to be done there.

The researchers of the study, which was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, used data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California air quality measurements to detect VOC levels in California air. The conclusion was that levels had declined an average of 7.5% per year.

So how have newer vehicles created such a transformation? Researchers are giving the majority of credit to catalytic converters, fuels that are less prone to evaporation, and enhanced engine efficiency. There’s no doubt that as older vehicles wear and are go out of circulation, and new vehicle production continues to get cleaner, pollution levels will continue to decrease.

As a resident of the Motor City, I have to say that for the environment’s sake, I’m glad the rest of the country doesn’t obsess over driving dirty classic cars as much as people here do. I’m also glad more and more Americans are starting to garner a bit of intrigue over electric vehicles, especially in cities like Los Angeles where the air needs all the help it can get.

Image CC licensed by Jeff Turner: Los Angeles Traffic

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