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Jun 05, 2013 01:40 PM EDT

Colorado Researchers Discover Significantly Lower Levels of Air Pollution in Los Angeles


Air pollution in the Los Angeles area is on a downward trajectory despite the population tripling since the 1960's, reported

According to a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, airborne irritants are declining in the nation's second-most populous region.

Air pollution has been improving ever since the 60's despite a huge spike in population and a rise in the amount of cars the southern Californian region.

Researchers told Bloomberg Businessweek that policies put in place to reduce nitrogen oxides and other emissions have been the biggest factor to the lower levels of air pollution.

"This is good news, L.A.'s air has lost a lot of its 'sting,'" Ilana Pollack, the study's lead author, said in a statement Wednesday.

Pollack is a scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences based in Boulder, Colorado.

She stated the study "confirms that California's policies to control emissions have worked as intended."

Pollack and her colleagues used information previously gathered by research aircraft and archived data from roadside monitors.

The United Nations is currently leading negotiations with at least 190 countries in trying to bind them to a treaty that would lower the output of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The goal for the treaty is 2015.

According to, the team of researchers found that vehicle-related pollutants had reduced by 98 percent since the 60's, with the biggest drop being from 2002 to 2010. Drivers had used three times as much fuel as they did in the past 50 years, but in that eight-year period, vehicular pollution levels were cut in half.

Having cleaner air will help people who suffer from diseases such as bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. Air pollutants can harm lung development in children and cause problems for people with lung-related diseases.

"The emission reductions have 'flipped' some of the chemistry that takes place in the atmosphere," Pollack said. "The relevant precursors in the atmosphere now favor chemical pathways that are more likely to produce nitric acid, and less likely to make ozone and peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN)."

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