DIAMOND BAR, CA — Air quality in the Los Angeles area has continued a trend of improvement during this year’s recently concluded “smog season,” as the number of days when the federal standard for ozone pollution was exceeded declined by one day from 1999 — to a total of 40 days — the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) reported. There were 62 days that exceeded the federal standard in 1998, the district said. The district imposes a range of air-pollution regulations, including the toughest coatings-VOC limits in the nation.

Also, for the second consecutive year, the region did not experience a so-called “Stage 1” ozone episode, when air quality is termed “very unhealthy.” The number of such episodes, which are announced when ozone pollution reaches a level of 0.20 parts per million, have declined sharply since 1977, when 121 such episodes occurred.

Based on the figures, the SCAQMD asserted that the Los Angeles area now ranks second to the Houston metropolitan area as the urban area with the worst air pollution in the nation. The district said Houston’s metropolitan area exceeded the 0.12 ppm federal ozone standard 44 times so far this year, and reached a higher peak ozone level — 0.225 ppm —compared to 0.18 in the Los Angeles air basin. More information is available from the SCAQMD website at www.aqmd.gov.