The American Lung Association in its State Of The Air 2010 report has listed the top 10 of what it terms the "Dirtiest Cities in America". The report highlights several discouraging fact about the state of air quality in the United States.
Overall the the worst area for pollution in the country rest in California's San Joaquin Valley. One study is found that the air quality in this area is so poor, that it can damage the lungs in the same way cigarettes do. In this area you find a near "Perfect Storm"of factors that contribute to the low air quality. With extensive farming, and industry, California's oil industry (In Bakersfield), car culture and topography all collide to trap pollutants leading to the formation of smog.
But California's coastal areas are also facing heavily polluted air.
The largest percentage of Californians live and work in near the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Riverside area, which ranked second-worst overall and worst in ozone pollution. Aside from millions of cars on the roads, the area also suffers the effects of the nation's busiest port. Researchers at the University of Calgary found in 2008 that salty coastal air mixed with sunshine and pollutants helps create unexpectedly high levels of ground-level ozone.
The State is attempting to remedy the situation by enacting some of the country's most stringent emission standards. This however has lead to some controversy as several pieces of legislation aimed at tightening emission standards for industry recently have met with opposition.
One in particular, even leading to a statewide ballot initiative. Proposition 23, which would have temporarily suspended key emissions-reduction tenets in the Golden State's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. One the one side you had the biggest backers of Prop 23 were Texas-based oil companies like Tesoro and Valero Energy and Koch Industries, all of which have operations in California. Valero, for its part, put up $5 million for a media campaign attempting to convince California that the Global Warming Solutions Act is a job-killer, claiming the prop. would further increase the already high 12.4% unemployment rate in the state. As did truck drivers who whose trucks' diesel engines contribute large amount of particulate matter and other pollutants into air while hauling loads to and from the Port of Long Beach.
Since the the proposition failed to pass (62% of voters rejected Prop 23) the emissions cuts are now set to begin in 2012. A carbon cap-and-trade program will be launched later. The goal is that, in eight years, California will have greenhouse gas emissions 15% lower than they are now. Refiners will have to pick up the tab for the pollution control technology improvements at their plants and supplier even cleaner fuels for automobile use than currently mandated in California.
Valero, which owns two refineries in the state and employs 1,600 workers there, will be able to pass on some of these costs to motorists, but higher fuel prices will almost certainly mean less demand for fuel. Cars are thought to be responsible for as much as 30% of California's greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the American Lung Association says that truck drivers, dock workers and railroad workers who inhale diesel exhaust are much more likely to die from lung cancer and heart disease than the general population.
For further information, please see the American Lung Association's, State Of The Air website.