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Lay of the Land

Wind-power Politics | Roads to Nowhere | Consumer-product pollutants | Columbia River Swimmer | Pinstripes Against Pollution | UNESCO's Danger List | Bold Strokes | WWatch | Updates

Too Many Bad Hair Days

After tailpipe emissions, what’s the second-leading source of air pollution in Southern California? If you’re scratching your head, you’re very, very close. Ordinary products like hair spray, detergent, and cosmetics, as well as car wax and lawn-care products, produce nearly three times as much smog-forming compounds as the region’s factories, and five times as much as its gasoline stations, according to a recent report by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. In fact, consumer products send out nearly two-thirds as much hydrocarbons, precursors to ozone, as all of the vehicles in the freeway-laced Golden State–and nearly twice as many of the pollutants as all of California’s SUVs and light trucks. While cuts are being made in emissions from most sources, the proportion of fumes from households is expected to rise 15 percent by 2020, when they will surpass cars and trucks as the region’s biggest contributor to smog. But state regulators are hamstrung by an industry-friendly state law that prevents them from banning one form of a product (spray deodorant, for example) while allowing another (such as roll-on deodorant), even though 90 percent of the contents of the aerosol version are chemical propellants that contribute to smog. –Reed McManus


Tons of Hydrocarbons Emitted Daily:

Petroleum distribution and refueling: 22

Recreational boats: 36

Non-road equipment (e.g., construction cranes): 43

Industrial and commercial paints and coatings: 76

Consumer products (e.g., detergents, hair sprays, cosmetics, lawn-care products): 108

Cars and light trucks: 178

Source: South Coast Air Quality Management District

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