As I understand it there are two key kinds of air pollution: ozone and fine particles.

Are there any long-term data series that chart average ozone levels and/or fine particulates over time going back to 1970?

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    $\begingroup$ Some data here but only back to 2001. (Anecdote) I'm in the inland empire (near San Bernardino), and when I moved here in spring 1994, it was a rare day in the summer that you could see the mountains. Now, it's a rare day that you can't see the mountains. $\endgroup$
    – mkennedy
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ Particulate matter measurements have transitioned over the years from TSP, to PM10, to PM2.5. You probably won't find "fine particle" measurements from the 1970s. Daily and Annual values for all monitored pollutants at both active and inactive sites are available here: www3.epa.gov/airdata/ad_maps.html but pre-1990 data is not included. $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ NOx (NO + NO2) and SO2 are also relevant air pollutants. The database at ebas.nilu.no provides long term data series of various pollutants. The largest fraction of data is provided by European measurement stations but also US stations are included. Los Angeles does not exist explicitly but maybe the station has another name ... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ Here is and document about LA's daily ozone level in several sites from 1955-1972. The link $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 5:06

2 Answers 2


The air quality in Los Angeles does not meet federal air quality standards. That being said, the air quality has improved immensely since the 1970s.

From the California Air Resource Board, in 1965 the maximum one-hour ozone concentration was 0.58 ppm. Since then, that number has come down to about 0.12 ppm. You can obtain the latest ozone data from EPA. See a 30 year ozone trend image below from the South Coast Air Quality Management District:

ozone history

Particulate matter is a bit tougher to quantify. PM10 (coarse and fine particles together) has been tracked since the late 80s, but PM2.5 (fine particles) has only been tracked since 1999. You can read a bit about it here.

The reduction in particulate matter has not been as dramatic as ozone. This makes sense, though, since ozone is a secondary pollutant whose precursors (NOx and VOCs) largely come from vehicle tailpipes. NOx and VOC emissions from vehicles has decreased significantly in recent years, especially with fleet turnover. In contrast, coarse and fine particulate matter come from many different sources, e.g. road dust, agriculture, cooking, etc. which is difficult to control since rain is the major control method.


A figure downloaded from this site.

It represent the history trends of the pollutants related to the photochemical pollution from 1960s to 2000s

enter image description here

We can find that $O_3$, $PAN$, $VOCs$, $NO_x$ have all declined. And O3 variation trends were strongly correlated to $NO_x$ which can be explained by the VOC-NOx chemistry.

Another material I have searched out was a class lecture downloaded here.

It introduced the contents below:

- Air Pollution Regulation: Pre Clean Air Act 1970
- Air Pollution: Definition, Concentration, Standards
- Clean Air Act 1970
- Local Agencies (California & Bay Area)  

The lecture has depict the air pollution trends and regulation situation from 1950s till 2000s.

May it help!


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