Why Gross Polluters Are So Gross

Gross Polluters are the worst of the worst as far as smog-producing cars go. You know them when you see them: black, grey, blue, or white smoke spewing out of tailpipes. On average, only one out of every 10 vehicles in California qualifies as a Gross Polluter, but they account for at least half of all the car smog.

Black smoke usually indicates a carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon problem, while white tailpipe smoke is indicative of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and head gasket problems. When NOx or hydrocarbons react with the sunlight, you get smog and all of smog’s accompanying problems. The tiny particles in smog can settle deep into human lungs, creating spotting and injury to the lungs. Carbon monoxide has especially harmful effects on certain segments of the populations, such as young children and the elderly. Most of us have carbon monoxide detectors at home, and that same carbon monoxide is dangerous in the air – it blocks essential oxygen from reaching the brain.

A Gross Polluter is much, much worse than the average car that just fails a Smog Check. By fixing Gross Polluters or getting them off the road altogether, residents and visitors to California can literally breathe that much easier. (Older vehicles have less strict requirements than newer models.) Besides breathing better, it is really in the owner’s best interest in the long run to have an efficient vehicle.

A Test-Only or Gold Shield station must certify a Gross Polluter once it has been repaired. Some car owners can qualify for financial assistance if their car fails the Smog Check test. There are certain vehicles that are more likely than others to fail the emissions test. Gross Polluters have twice the maximum allowable emissions limit on one of the tested standards. The Visible Smoke Test of the Smog Check identifies black smoke as well as bluish-white smoke from burning oil. The owner receives a copy of the Vehicle Inspection Report and facts about failing the smoke test.

Getting Gross Polluters off the road is just one way to help ensure that you and your loved ones will be able to take a deep breath without contaminating your lungs or getting the essential oxygen your brain needs to function. 1-800-END-SMOG or #SMOG on cell phones is the vehicle complaint hotline that takes reports of Gross Polluters. Residents call this line when they see a vehicle smoking excessively and then report the license plate number of the offending vehicle.

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