Air Pollution in California

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Air Pollution in California

In the 1940's California was supporting a population of seven million people and contained 2.8 million registered vehicles. Within the next twenty years the population more than doubled to reach 16 million while the number of registered vehicles all but tripled increasing to eight million. This has been a common trend in California's documented history from the early twentieth century to today. There have been many historical and environmental factors that have assisted in contributing to increases such as these in California. One such factor was World War II, from the late 1930's to 1945, which triggered a boom in the population of California and the beginning of the urban sprawl. Increases in population such as this resulted in a massive increase in pollution but more specifically air pollution. To counteract the drastic increase of air pollution in California, then Governor Earl Warren signed the Air Pollution Control Act authorizing each county in the state to create its own air pollution control (California Air Resources Board). Since the inception of this "clean air" act many private and governmental organizations were created setting rules, regulations, and standards against pollution and writing them into law. While the average individual is able to make decisions which ultimately affect the quality of our air by making it less polluted organizations hold a far greater power in controlling the quality California's air. Combining the organizational factors with the efforts of the individual has drastically decreased the rate at which we pollute our environment and increased the quality of the air here in California.

With the end of the Second World War California saw a massive urban sprawl and a population surge. This not only increased the demand we were placing upon California's natural resources, but also triggered a huge decrease in the quality of California's air. Since population was increasing and the populated areas within the state were increasing as well, more people began purchased vehicles and/or added to the total Vehicle Miles Traveled on California roads. From 1940 to 2000 the population increased from seven million to 34 million; the number of registered cars increased from 2.8 million to 23.4 million; and the total Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) increased from 24 billion to 280 billion (California Air Resources Board). This increase was in large part one of the main causes of air pollution in California. A study taken in 2003 showed that motor vehicles alone accounted for 55% of the NOx present in California's air (Stephen L. Johnson EPA). NOx is one of the main air pollutants and its compounds are made up of different quantities of Nitrogen and Oxygen. A few of the compounds created are Nitrogen Dioxide, Nitric Acid, Nitrous Oxide, Nitrates and Nitric Oxide (Stephen L. Johnson EPA). NOx is also one of the main contributing factors to the production of Ozone. Combining NOx, Volatile Organic Compounds, which are generated from the burning of fossil fuels, and sunlight result in the production of Ozone. The pollutant Ozone is chemically identical to the Ozone which is present and very much necessary in our upper atmosphere; the difference is that we are exposed to Ground-level Ozone which is highly reactive and damaging to our health and to the environment. Pollutants such as Ozone and NOx contribute to all of the different forms of air pollution such as acid rain, global warming, and many health risks.

On the tenth of June in 1947 California Governor Earl Warren signed the Air Pollution Control Act, authorizing the creation of an Air Pollution Control District in each county throughout the state. This was an extremely important event as it gave governmental organizations the power to write and enforce environmental law. California then began to pass laws and create organizations to assist in restoring the quality of its air. In 1963 the First...
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