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L.A. Air Carcinogenic?

California pioneered the idea of smog checks for cars and last year made them the toughest in the nation. But a newly released congressional report finds they haven't cleared the air, CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports.

Samples taken from across Los Angeles found that the risk of cancer caused by toxic pollutants was 426 times higher than health standards set by the 1990 Clean Air Act.

"The fact of the matter is, people shouldn't be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals when they breath the air," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

While the study would suggest that living in southern California is hazardous to your health, it also acknowledges that it's likely to take 70 years of breathing in the toxins to make you sick.

The National Cancer Institute says that 36 other states have higher rates of lung cancer deaths than California. But here in Los Angeles, Dr. Robert Cameron has seen an unexplainable increase in a rare form of the disease, "It's increased from almost non-existent to a fourth or a third of all the lung cancer cases we see here. And it's a specific type of lung cancer not associated with smoking. This may actually explain that whole change."

One side benefit recent destructive El Ninos' is that the weather phenomena have pushed out the smog in southern California over the past couple of years. But even that powerful force wasn't enough to clean the air for long. The study may prove alarming enough to force the government into checking air quality nationwide.

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