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Children Got Significantly Healthier As SoCal's Air Got Cleaner, 20 Year Study Finds

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Thanks to dramatically better air quality, Southern California children today have significantly fewer respiratory problems than they did two decades ago, according to study conducted by scientists at the University of Southern California.

The study observed for respiratory symptoms like persistent runny noses, sneezes and coughs, in three cohorts of Southern California children between 1993 and 2012, while simultaneously monitoring air quality in the communities where the children lived.

During that time, diesel, soot, and other kinds of fine particle pollution dropped by almost half as state air quality regulators came down hard on sources of pollution, and vehicles became dramatically cleaner.

"This is one of the few times that we have been able to report good news, and this is very likely a direct result of the science-based policies that have been put in place," Berhane explained to USC News. "The message that clean air leads to better health in children should be taken seriously because it has implications for how we live and how productive we become."

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The largest gains were seen in children who have asthma, who, in 2012, were 32 percent less likely to show persistent respiratory symptoms than those twenty years prior. Non-asthmatic children showed a 21-percent drop in symptoms.

According to the San Bernardino Sun, the same group of USC scientists determined children today also have significantly stronger lungs than did the children of L.A. past. Children today can take deeper breaths, hold more air, and exhale more strongly.

Southern California's air, though now the cleanest it has been in the past 50 years, is still the most polluted in the nation.

On Wednesday, the L.A. City Council adopted new rules to try and help mitigate the effects of pollution in some of the city’s most polluted neighborhoods. Aside from developing a strategy to clean up sources of industrial pollution in Wilmington, Pacoima, and Boyle Heights, the city is also pushing for the installation of air filtration systems in homes and schools, according to the L.A. Times.

Progress comes slowly.