The Hidden Dangers of Smog in California


California, also known as the golden state, may be seen as one of the most desirable states to travel to within the United States. The state has earned itself a reputation for its warm beaches, world famous cities, celebrities, fascinating state history, stunning national parks, and its air pollution. Yes… Air pollution. A study was done by the American Lung Association on the top ten cities in the United States with the worst ground level smog. Of the ten cities spanning across the nation, California is home to six of them! Los Angeles actually has the most ozone pollution in the nation. You might be wondering why this is the case, but first lets understand what smog is and how it is formed. The word “smog” was first used in London during the early 1900’s to describe the fog like pollution blanketing the city. The two words “smoke” and “fog” were combined to make “smog”. Smog gives the air a brownish grey tint that damages the health and limits the visibility of those within it.

Though many people dismiss smog as just a minor nuisance, it is much more. The dangers of smog are evident in the many illnesses it imposes on people. The effects can be minor but if exposed for long periods of time can turn major. Smog, when inhaled, can irritate airways and cause respiratory illness. As a result of  long exposure, the risk of getting heart/lung disease increases. Smog can also cause asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Basically, it makes breathing as a whole more difficult. To add to all of those negative effects, smog decreases UV radiation resulting in low production of Vitamin D.

Now that you know the damaging effects of smog, we need to understand how it is formed if we are to understand why California is home to so much smog. Smog is formed when industrial emissions from power plants, factories, cars, and other sources react with heat and sunlight in the atmosphere. Because smog reacts with heat, it is more prevalent in warmer months… which California is full of. Temperatures have been rising in Southern California and the rest of the state due to climate change, El Nino, and other factors which have directly led to the creation of the large amounts of smog in the skies above California. Smog affects many cities that do not have any factories or any major source of air pollution the worst….why? Winds from the cities that produce air pollution blow it inland into the cities that are simply in the direction of the wind. During the winter months when wind speed is low, smog becomes stagnant and thicker which allows for smog to be closer to ground level.

Large Metropolitan cities in California contain an overwhelming amount of people commuting in cars, it is no surprise that cities such as Los Angeles have some of the worst ground level smog in the nation. The damaging effects of smog have been gaining notoriety with more and more people interested in their health throughout the years and positive programs have been put in place to limit the creation of more smog. Although millions of people would have to change certain aspects of their daily life to limit the creation of additional smog, it can be done…. and YOU can aid in the effort for cleaner skies. National Geographic has published a list of ways you could help limit the amount of smog over your city.

Here is the list:

  1. Drive Less: walk, bike, carpool, or take public transport
  2. Take care of your car
  3. Fuel up during the cooler parts of the day. It prevents gas fumes from heating up and producing ozone.
  4. Avoid gas powered yard equipment, instead use electric appliances
  5. Avoid products with VOC’s (Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature.)

The smog in the skies over California is a dangerous and even deadly problem for the residents who live within it. But the threat can be minimized if we all put in some effort to minimize the pollution going into our skies. It doesn’t have to be anything major either! Next time you go to the store try biking or walking! Or if you have a trip planned with your friends, arrange for everybody to be in the same car! So as you go on with your life keep the environment in mind, not only doing small things to help the environment will overall benefit you, but the positive effects will be felt by everybody else for possibly generations to come!

Thank you for taking the time to read this article!



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