The Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area has the worst ozone pollution in the country, according to the  American Lung Association’s (ALA) 16th annual State of the Air 2015 report, released Wednesday. 

The report has ranked the Los Angeles-Long Beach region last in the nation for ozone pollution in all 16 of their State of the Air reports, although the metropolitan area reported its lowest average year-round particles and fewest high ozone days in the report’s history. The report also found that more than four in 10 Americans, nearly 138.5 million people, live in counties where ozone pollution levels make the air unhealthy to breathe.

The ALA’s Senior Director for Air Quality and Climate Change Bonnie Holmes-Gen said that Long Beach does have less pollution than Los Angeles, but this is because pollution from the ports tends to travel east and is “blown away by sea breezes.” 

“A lot of the pollutions from the [Long Beach] Port tend to travel to the San Bernardino, Riverside area,” Holmes-Gen said. “Ozone is a regional problem and particle pollution is both a local and regional issue.”

Harold P. Wimmer, national president and CEO of the ALA, emphasized the health effects of pollution and the need to meet air pollution challenges “head-on.” 

“Everyone has the right to breathe healthy air,” Wimmer said in a statement. 

Of the top 10 U.S. metropolitan cities polluted by short-term particle pollution, Los Angeles-Long Beach ranked fifth, with more 24-hour particle pollution than San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, but less particle pollution than Fresno-Madera and Bakersfield.

Los Angeles-Long Beach was also ranked fifth for cities most polluted by long-term, year-round particle pollution. William Barrett, spokesman for the ALA, compiled the charts below using the California Air Resources Board’s database of individual monitors to compare ratings from Los Angeles and Long Beach.



ALA spokesman William Barrett said the charts illustrate Long Beach monitors versus Los Angeles monitors and aren’t comparable to the numbers in the ALA report, since the ALA numbers are based on a three-year average. The tables above show a year-by-year formation. 

“For Long Beach, ozone monitors do not show any days above the national standard, but there are data for particle pollution days [below] – you’ll see significant drops at both the Los Angeles and Long Beach sites,” he said. 



“Ozone is actually a corrosive gas, so it’s invisible, but it’s very dangerous and it actually damages lung tissue,” said Holmes-Gen. “We think about it sometimes as even a sunburn on your lungs, or sometimes we talk about, because it’s corrosive, it’s like putting acid in your eye,” he said, noting that corroding lungs lead to illnesses that result in hospital and emergency room visits.

Other key findings from State of the Air 2015 include the fact that 17.8 million people in the U.S. live in 12 counties with unhealthful levels of ozone, short-term particle pollution and year-round particle pollution; six cities had a record number of days with dangerous levels of particle pollution; many cities, particularly in California, had better ozone ratings than in the 2014 report, but had more unhealthy ozone days; and, on a positive note, the best progress was reported in the eastern half of the nation for continued reduction of year-round particle pollution thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants.

“Through the history of this report we’ve seen tremendous improvement in air quality, yet we’ve also discovered that air pollution is a more serious threat to our health than we previously knew,” Wimmer said in a statement. 

Alongside strengthening the outdated ozone standards and urging congress to protect the Clean Air Act, the ALA called for the EPA to adopt a final Clean Power Plan that should “issue tough final requirements to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.” The ALA also encouraged Congress to fund the EPA and the states’ work to provide healthy air, monitor and protect the nation from air pollution.

The ALA “State of the Air 2015” report uses the most recent quality-assured air pollution data, collected by federal, state and local governments and tribes in 2011, 2012, and 2013, according to the release. These data come from official monitors for the two most widespread types of pollution, ozone and particle pollution. The report grades counties, ranking cities and counties based on scores calculated by average number of unhealthy days (for ozone and for short-term particle pollution) and by annual averages (for year-round particle pollution).

For more information about State of the Air 2015, for the report in its entirety and to learn how to protect yourself and your family from air pollution, no matter where you may live, click here.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].