City Profile: Los Angeles

Research Question:

What are the most effective ways/solutions to alleviate pollution in Los Angeles?

Sub-research questions:

  1. What are the causes to pollution in Los Angeles? When and how did it start ?
  2. What is the general consensus of pollution in Los Angeles? Do people think it is malicious? Are people worried about the effects?
  3. How harmful is the pollution? If high, then how many people has it hurt so far, and what are the effects?

Pollution in Los Angeles:

The investigation that I will be conducting will discuss the most effective ways to alleviate pollution in Los Angeles. The current situation with pollution in Los Angeles is extremely dire. In fact, its pollution levels are the most severe and malicious in the whole of the United States. Specifically areas such as Long Beach. These areas in California top the charts of pollution levels when is comes to the ozone levels. The main causes to the pollution levels in Los Angeles include diesel engines, ports, vehicles, and industries. Areas such as the Los Angeles Basin are affected by atmospheric inversion. This means that any of the harmful emissions such as greenhouse gases that are released by the vehicles (cars, buses, ships) will be trapped in the air. The cloud that they are usually trapped in is smog, and this often layers quite low over the Los Angeles skyline. The lack of sunny days and low precipitation in Los Angeles results in an even more severe ozone formation.

However, the most important points to address about pollution is its effects on people, and other living things. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA for short, have conducted multiple investigations pertaining to the effects of the chemicals in the air (PM2.5). They have concluded that the several major health risks that Los Angeles’ air poses to humans include, but are not limited to; respiratory harm (asthma aggravation), cardiovascular harm (heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure), and harm to the central nervous system. These aforementioned effects of the air in Los Angeles are extremely malicious to humans that are living in Los Angeles; who are breathing in Los Angeles. Pollution, evident from above, is a major and malicious problem that needs to be alleviated as soon as possible. 47% of Los Angeles’ residents say that the pollution poses a ‘serious threat’, and needs to be solved.


The map below shows the level of ozone concentration around California. As evident from the map, (not as serious as Bakersfield or Riverside) but Los Angeles' northern sections such as Santa Clarita, show dangerously high (dark pink) pollution levels; specifically the ozone concentration in the air. Due to the harmful concentration of ozone, people in Santa Clarita will experience a much higher level of respiratory related illnesses, compared to much healthier areas in California such as Santa Maria, whose pollution levels are 0, or completely harmless compared to the other regions of California. Many reasons contribute to the healthy ozone concentration in these areas; most likely the lack of ports and factories, which is highly possible considering the fact that Santa Maria is renowned for its wine and BBQ, which does not contribute to ozone concentration levels in the air.

Surveys conduction with ex-residents:

Question 1: What are your thoughts on the pollution levels in Los Angeles?

1. Pollution levels in Los Angeles have gotten so much lower/better in my lifetime. 30 years ago the air was dangerously polluted and there was a significant problem with urban run-off water getting into the oceans and severely contaminating the water.

Question 2: Is the current situation severe? Do you know anyone or know of anyone, who has been affected by the pollution?

2. The situation now is still pretty bad even though it's improved a lot. I know that when we get heavy rains (not that often) the run-off still contaminates the beaches and ocean, making the water unsuitable for surfing, swimming and other water activities. I definitely remember getting really sick, and having friends get really sick, after surfing in polluted water and I certainly remember days growing up when we weren't allowed to play outside. I don't think there are many of those days any more though.

Question 3: Do you think this situation should be quickly solved? (i.e the community or government taking steps to solve the issue)

3. I don't see a problem as complex as pollution can or should be quickly solved. The solution starts in people's hearts and minds before it reaches policy and direct action for governments, businesses and individuals. Keeping our planet, and our communities healthy is a long journey because we've gone so far down the wrong road.

I conducted an interview with my Geography teacher, Dan Kinzer, who lived in Los Angeles for quite a number of year in his life. In short, he stated that he believes that pollution was still a malicious and major problem in Los Angeles albeit improving by quite a lot in the past few decades. He stated that he knows of people (including themselves) who have been negatively affected by the pollution, such as sickness or illnesses. He helped me understand a little bit more about pollution in that, when it rains, the pollution would affect the beach and ocean by contaminating it. He states that one of the solutions to fixing pollution is to first gain the correct mindset. As pollution is an irreversible process, the only way to really mitigate the issue is try and minimize the inevitable damage that we are causing with the environment. We must think about our actions before they are taken, and understand that all things that are done on Earth have a causality chain. Meaning that there is a cause and effect, action reaction.


As evident from the data shown above, Los Angeles in relation to the three other largest cities in the United States, has the worst pollution levels, further proving my claim. Days that contain harmful air quality (abundant in Co2) are 31 more than the three other largest cities in the United States. This set of data also shows that the main causes of the harmful Co2 are on-road and passenger vehicles, but more dominantly on-road vehicles.

Explanation and Analysis:

In conclusion, we first have to relate back to our research question; What are the most effective ways/solutions to alleviate pollution in Los Angeles? Now we have to put in context the pollution in Los Angeles. How is it? Is it harmful? Who does it affect? From the data that I gathered, and the sources that I used, I can conclude that pollution is a serious and malicious problem in Los Angeles. The ozone concentration levels in particular are extremely harmful to the residents of Los Angeles. In comparison to the past few decades, the pollution levels/conditions have vastly improved. As evident from the interview/survey with my Geography teacher, he states that albeit the pollution levels have recently mitigated by a large amount, it is still prevalent and no doubt unhealthy. Evident from the set a data above, it is clearly evident that Los Angeles has the most polluted air in the entire United States. The city of Los Angeles is compared to the three other largest cities in the United States, yet its days with clean, healthy and breathable air are extremely abundant in comparison to the three other cities. Even though Los Angeles is NOT the biggest city in the United States, it still has the highest Co2 days out of the three. The data set also shows that the causes of dominant C02 days are due to the use of on-road and passenger vehicles, as they emit a large majority of the Co2.

Other than damage to our health, what else does pollution do?

Global warming: Pollution is a direct carcinogen to global warming. It causes it, promotes it, and is slowly destroying our world. Habitats, nature, animals, are all dying because of this; and a main cause of it is because of us, the pollution-causers.

Acid rain: Because carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals are released into the air of the cars and factories, it mixes in with the air that is in the sky. This is called atmospheric inversion, where the pollutants and chemicals are stuck in the sky. After being stuck, it starts to rain these harmful chemicals, damaging our health, and the environment.

As Dan Kinzer said, the solution starts in our hearts, then we work out the feasible solution. The solution will not completely eradicate pollution, but will of course slow down the effects, and stop the continuous increase; putting it to a halt. So without further ado, the currently possible, and most effective solutions to pollution are; the use of public transportation opposed to personal off-road and on-road vehicles, and the conservation of energy.

First off, using public transportation is an ideal solution to mitigating the damage that is being caused on the environment at the moment. Since cars that are currently used for general purpose travel to places around town are extremely prevalent, and almost every person (unnecessarily) owns one, they are the helpful benefactors to a malicious cause. It is completely unnecessary for one person to ride in their own car, which emits as much harmful chemicals and carcinogens as a vehicle that can fit up to 30 people does. This is where the solution of public transportation or carpooling comes in. Up to 30 people who own cars can use buses and other methods of public transportations (such as trams or trains) which cuts down a large amount of the harmful Co2 emissions. It is evident from the fact that people will cause (if there are 30 people who own cars who switch to public transportation) 30 times less harm to the environment if buses are used. What is further contributing to the solution is the fact that in certain countries (Hong Kong), there are buses that are designed to emit less harmful chemicals. In conclusion, through the use of public transportation, the environment will receive an extremely less amount of pollution in comparison to the situation at the moment. The other way to reduce harm to the environment and the air is through energy conservation. The current most effective way to conserve energy, is to simply turn off the lights, or other any consumption devices when not in use. For example, when a family leaves their house and does not switch off their lights or air-con, there are drastically harmful effects. The first one, is what the people most care about; their own electricity bills. By leaving their electricity on, they consume an unnecessary amount of energy. The second thing that his does is the excess consumption of fossil fuels. As lights and air-conditioning are switched on, fossil fuels are burnt. Carbon monoxide is released through the improper burning of fossil fuels, which is present in ground and air vehicles. Cars, factories, and electricity waste are all causing the improper burning of fossil fuels; which are not only conveniently the highest contributors to carbon monoxide emissions; but also the most required and useful things in our daily lives. If we can start adopting these two methods of mitigating pollution, we can save the environment.

The future isn't looking good for us, and I will create an image for you, through an excerpt of my poem.

What did we do to go so far down the wrong road?

I guess it was the abuse;

No, not the drugs, not the alcohol.

The environment;

So much of the focus was on the people themselves,

and not the physical, tangible, beautiful world that we lived in.

They probably didn’t figure out there was no environment, if there were no people.

It aggravated.

Like a bull being taunted with red cloth;

It charged at us.

Water was toxically green and black.

The air was no longer aquamarine;

We said our goodbyes to Mr. Blue Sky.

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