High Levels of Carcinogens Present in California Air
California has the second-most toxic air in the nation, and one in every 15,000 residents is at risk of developing cancer as a result of breathing the air over their lifetime, according to a report released last month by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Los Angeles Times reports. New York State has the worst air quality, the report found.
The National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment is a nationwide, county-by-county snapshot of the cancer risk associated with 177 chemicals emitted in 1999, the most recent data available.
According to the report, about one in every 10,700 residents of Los Angeles and Orange counties is at risk of developing cancer from air pollution compared with one in every 24,000 nationally.
Californians are exposed to at least 10 chemicals in concentrations that are higher than acceptable levels under federal guidelines, including benzene and butadiene, chemicals found in gasoline, the study found.
State officials believe the actual cancer risk for residents is higher because the EPA report excluded diesel fuel in its analysis. California also ranks other chemicals as more potent than the EPA, which also could account for the different results.
Including diesel fuel would increase the Los Angeles area's cancer risk from 93 per million to 1,400 per million, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
A Times review of the assessment and more recent data found that the levels of many carcinogenic chemicals have substantially declined in the state since strict air quality standards were enacted in 1983.
However, the assessment shows California still has "a huge problem" and must find other ways to reduce pollution, Janice Nolen, the American Lung Association's national policy director, said (Cone, Los Angeles Times, 3/22).