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Air Quality in California Cities - What Can Be Done?

Over the last four years, California cities have been on the top of the list of the most smog-producing cities and have had the worst air quality in the country. Some of the worst California cities for air quality include Bakersfield, Los Angeles and the Visalia-Tulare-Porterville area. These cities are on the list because they have more days when the air quality is dangerously low than other cities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does the research for these listings and its last report was for 1999 to 2001.

The EPA "State of the Air" report indicates that air quality is getting slightly better. The California cities that were the top air quality offenders are partially responsible for the improvements but the other part responsible is weather, not less pollution. The more cool days we have and the more rain and wind there is, the better the air quality will be. The national policy director for the EPA, Janice Nolan, does not believe any improvement in pollution control has occurred.

The Clean Air Act is possibly going to be changed by the president and these changes are thought by Nolan to possibly have a negative effect on air quality. The changes would lower restrictions on pollution levels that are allowed and get rid of restrictions on pollution control at power plants.

The ozone in the atmosphere comes from a interaction between sunlight, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide when combustion occurs. We all breathe in this ozone and Tony DeLucia, chairman of the Lung Association and a surgeon in Tennessee, believes this can cause lung damage and cause breathing problems. The people most affected by the ozone are those with asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

Ozone is mainly created by all varieties of factories and from cars. The industry most responsible for ozone production is the coal burning utility industry, according to Nolan. Some utility companies are responding to requests to improve air quality quickly and efficiently while there are some that ignore these requests, and are even attempting to alter the new regulations through the courts. Mr. DeLucia says that our ever increasing demand as a society for electricity is partially responsible because it is causing utility companies to expand and grow. These expansions are not always done in the most environmentally friendly way.

Dan Reidinger, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute which is a trade group for utility companies, says the utility industry is taking steps to improve air quality and is using the most modern technologies to do this whenever possible. Reidinger does not believe that the utility companies need to or can do anything else to improve air quality and live up to the environmental regulations that the government has established regarding air quality.


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