Introduction to the Air Resources Board

This page last reviewed December 30, 2015

California's Clean Air Agency

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ARB: 40 Years of Air Quality Management Leadership

California's Legislature established the Air Resources Board (ARB) in 1967 to:

  1. Attain and maintain healthy air quality.

  2. Conduct research into the causes of and solutions to air pollution.

  3. Systematically attack the serious problems caused by motor vehicles, which are a major cause of air pollution in the State.

Since its formation (see a history of ARB), the ARB has worked with the public, the business sector, and local governments to protect the public's health, the economy and the state's ecological resources through the most cost-effective reduction of air pollution.

Printer Friendly: English(pdf) brochure.

The Governing Board

The Air Resources Board's twelve members are appointed by the Governor. Five are experts in fields such as medicine, chemistry, physics, meteorology, engineering, business and law. Six others are elected officials who represent regional air pollution control agencies - one each from Los Angeles region, San Francisco Bay area, San Diego, Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley. One represents the other districts. The Chairman is the only full-time member.

The Staff

Under the direction of the executive officer, a dedicated staff of scientists, engineers, and other professionals conducts the daily work of the ARB. With headquarters in Sacramento, the ARB also operates a motor vehicle testing and analysis laboratory in El Monte.

The Air Is Cleaner

California's air pollution control program is one of the most effective in the world. Coordinated state, regional, and local efforts have steadily improved our air quality. As a result, the air is the cleanest in years.
For example, in the Los Angeles area - the most seriously polluted region in the nation - the highest levels of pollution have dropped by 25 percent since 1980. Annual exposure to smog has decreased by 50 percent.

But Pollution is Still a Problem

Despite these improvements, California continues to face the nation's greatest air quality challenge. The state's sunny climate, pollution-trapping mountains and valleys, along with the activities of 32 million Californians all contribute to the problem.
If you live here, you've experienced it first hand. Every year more than 90 percent of all Californians breathe unhealthy, polluted air. This harms our health and the economy.

Air Pollution Harms Our Health

Health problems linked to air pollution range from eye irritation, sore throats, and coughing to lung damage, cancer, and premature death.Those with heart or lung disease or problems such as asthma can be severely impaired. Healthy children and adults who play or exercise vigorously are also at risk. See Film Clip .

And the Economy

Every year, Californians lose billions of dollars due to air pollution. The cost of health-related problems, plus damage to crops, forests, and wild vegetation, all add up to a big drain on California's economy. Air pollution is something we can't afford.

What the ARB Does

Programs for cleaner air range from research and regulation to enforcement and education. The ARB:

  1. Sets and enforces emission standards for motor vehicles , fuels and consumer products .

  2. Sets health-based air quality standards.

  3. Conducts research .

  4. Monitors air quality.

  5. Identifies and sets control measures for toxic air contaminants.

  6. Provides compliance assistance for businesses.

  7. Produces education and outreach programs and materials.

  8. Oversees and assists local air quality districts which regulate most non-vehicular sources of air pollution.

Solutions for Cleaner Air

California has reduced air pollution through:

  1. Car and truck emission standards that dramatically reduce pollution. Today's new cars pollute about 90 percent less than cars in the early 1970's.

  2. A zero-emission vehicle program that spurs the production of cars and trucks with no direct air pollution emissions.

  3. Cleaner-burning fuels that cut pollution from all gasoline and diesel vehicles and equipment. Cleaner-burning gasoline, required statewide by June 1996, cuts smog-forming pollution by 15 percent and cancer risk from gasoline by 30 percent.

  4. Consumer products regulations that reduce smog-forming emissions by about 60 tons a day by 1999. In 1995, consumer products produced 250 tons of air pollution a day.

  5. Air toxics control measures that apply to over 7000 businesses and to all motor vehicles. Risk from cancer or birth defects is reduced through prevention and control methods that are up to 100 percent effective for the most significant air toxics.

  6. Training and literature that help businesses understand and comply with air pollution rules.

  7. Educational programs that increase the environmental awareness of businesses and the general public.

Looking Forward

The air is cleaner, but not clean enough. The ARB adopted its 2007 State Implementation Plan, a detailed plan to clean up air pollution region by region in the next decade. In addition, the ARB is now a lead state agency in California's effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

Even then, cleaning up the air will take more than government regulations. It will hinge on how companies conduct their business and how individuals live their lives. Everyone doing their part is our best chance for clean, healthful air for all Californians.