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Southern California Air Pollution Kills Thousands Annually, Study Says

LOS ANGELES ( — Thousands of people in Southern California die each year from breathing polluted air, according to a study released Wednesday.

Researchers found that 1,341 people in the LA area die annually due to air pollution that exceeds levels recommended by the American Thoracic Society (ATS). The research tracked levels of ambient ozone and fine particulate matter from 2011-2013 and paired it with public health data. Riverside was in second place, with 808 "avoidable deaths" due to air pollution that exceeded ATS standards.

The study found that more than 3,000 people in the Los Angeles area suffer from pollution-related respiratory diseases including chronic bronchitis. About 1,400 people in Riverside suffer from pollution-related ailments.

The study also found that many people are kept from participating in daily activities due to air pollution. The study found there are 2,892,029 such "impacted days" annually in Los Angeles, and about 1,321,762 in the Riverside area.

Researchers said tightening air quality standards would save thousands of lives in the region. Southern California leads the country in "avoidable deaths" stemming from poor air quality, the study says.

Dr. Ahmet Baydur, a professor of clinical medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that the people most at risk are those whose lungs already are damaged by smoking, along with those suffering from emphysema, severe asthma or chronic bronchitis.

The study may not surprise many Angelenos accustomed to smog. In July, ocean-to-basin air quality in Southern California was deemed healthy for only one day, July 31, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The study was conducted by the American Thoracic Society, a professional group representing 15,000 physicians, scientists and other health professionals, along with NYU's Maron Institute Of Urban Management.

The study's goal is to impact air quality management decisions, according to the researchers. The ATS air quality recommendations are more stringent than the current EPA requirements, the study noted.

"There are substantial public health impacts from air pollution in the United States," the study says. "For comparison, the estimated 9,320 deaths attributable to air pollution in this report are quantitatively comparable to the 10,076 alcohol-related traffic deaths that occurred in the United States in 2013."

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