Environmental Problems in Los Angeles

A view from the hills of smog over Los Angeles, CA.
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Located on the Southern coast of California, Los Angeles faces serious threats from air pollution and rising sea levels. The city is susceptible to variable precipitation because of its geographic location, which means there are unpredictable droughts, and the dense population contributes to storm water pollution of local bodies of water.

Poor Air Quality

Los Angeles is home to the most polluted air in the country and the city consistently fails to meet federal standards for air quality. High levels of particulate matter -- particles that float around in the air -- and ozone can be attributed to traffic and power plants. Air pollution, which is linked to respiratory problems, disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods because they are more likely to be located near sources of pollution such as freeways and industrial factories.

Variable Precipitation

Southern California is prone to changes in rainfall and has the most variable precipitation patterns in the United States. Average rainfall in Los Angeles and other cities on the south coast is 17 inches less than in Northern California, and the environmental implications of this can be harsh. Drought conditions in combination with dense forests and high temperatures make Southern California vulnerable to wildfires.

Rising Sea Level

Los Angeles is famous for its extensive coastline that features tourist-populated beaches and busy ports that are the foundation of the city's economy. Rising sea levels threaten the area with storm surges that create the potential for flooding, which in turn can erode beaches and coastal infrastructure. Sea level rise is also a concern for the local transportation network, which includes bridges and roads that could be destroyed by the impact of floods.

Storm Water Pollution

Storm water pollution is a major environmental concern in Los Angeles that is exacerbated by the densely packed residents in the city. Every day, millions of people engage in activities like littering, spraying pesticides on their lawns, and hosing off driveways and cars, all of which result in contaminated water traveling to storm drains and ending up in nearby creeks, rivers and the ocean. The public health outcomes include bacteria-infested waters and degradation of the marine-based food supply.

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