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Air Quality Timeline

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Reflections on California's Air Quality History

1930 California's population is less than 6 million people. Registered vehicles reach 2 million.

1939 World War II Begins -- Explosion of California's population soon to occur to meet the needs of the war. 

1940 California's population reaches 7 million people. Registered vehicles near 2.8 million.

1943 First recognized episode of smog occurs in Los Angeles, September 8, 1943. People suffer from smarting eyes, respiratory discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. 

1945 World War II Ends--Urban sprawl begins to take root in much of the U.S. The city of Los Angeles begins its air pollution control program, establishing the Bureau of Smoke Control in its health department. 

1950 California's population reaches 11 million people. Registered vehicles top 4.5 million.

1959 California enacts legislation requiring the State Department of Public Health to establish air quality standards and necessary controls for mobile vehicle emissions. 

1960 California's population reaches 16 million people. Registered vehicles approach 8 million.

1962 Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" is published. 

1963 First Federal Clean Air Act of 1963 enacted. Empowers the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to define air quality criteria based on scientific studies. Provides grants to state and local air pollution control agencies. 

1966 Auto emission standards for hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are adopted by the California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board. They are the first of their kind in the nation. 

1969 First State Ambient Air Quality Standards are promulgated by California. 

1970 California's population reaches 20 million people. Registered vehicles top 12 million.

1970 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created. 

1970 Backyard burning is banned in selected areas of California. 

1970 The first Earth Day held April 22, 1970. 

1971 Federal EPA follows California's lead and promulgates National Ambient Air Quality Standards. 

1973 OPEC oil embargo results in rising fuel costs, the use of smaller, more efficient automobiles, more cost conservative use of fuel by industry, and correspondingly lower air emissions. 

1977 Federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977 enacted. Requires review of all National Ambient Air Quality Standards by 1980. Also adds additional protection for Class I National Park and Wilderness air quality. 

1980 California's population reaches 24 million people. Registered vehicles exceed 17 million.

1988 California Clean Air Act is enacted. Sets forth the framework for how air quality will be managed in California for the next 20 years. 

1990 California's population reaches 30 million people. Registered vehicles at 23 million.

1990 The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 are enacted. They rely largely on elements of the California Clean Air Act, and require a number of new programs aimed at curbing urban ozone, rural acid rain, the depletion of stratospheric ozone, toxic air pollutant emissions and vehicle emissions, and establishing a new, uniform national permit system. 

1993 California Diesel Fuel comes to market. Major air quality benefits occur. Some problems with engine fuel systems noted. 

1995 The Internet catches on, changing the way people think about information exchange and ways of doing business. 

1996 Big seven auto makers commit to manufacture and sell Zero-Emission Vehicles. 

1996 California Re-formulated Gas (RFG) comes to market. 

1997 Stricter National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and particulate matter are promulgated to better protect the health of all Americans. 

2000 California's population is 34 million. Registered vehicles at 23.4 million.

2003 California's population is 35 million and is predicted to pass 40 million by 2010.

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