Thousands of lives could be saved in California by stricter air pollution limits, study finds

More than 2,000 Southern Californians die early each year from polluted air, and the region would benefit the most of anywhere in the country from reducing ozone and fine particle pollution below current federal limits, a new study has found.

The analysis by scientists at New York University and the American Thoracic Society, released Wednesday, estimated that more protective air quality standards would prevent 3,632 deaths a year in California, more than one-third of the 9,320 early deaths linked to dirty air nationwide.

The study estimates 1,341 avoidable deaths from pollution each year in the Los Angeles metro area and 800 in Riverside-San Bernardino. The region has “the most to gain” from attaining tougher air quality standards because of its large population and high pollution levels, according to the study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, a peer-reviewed journal.

Southern California has the nation’s highest levels of ozone — the corrosive gas in smog — and does not meet federal standards for fine particles, harmful soot and chemical-laden specks of pollution that can lodge deep in the lungs.