NOTE: Today's print edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution includes a front-page story in the Living section about the effects of asthma on Georgia youths. Dr. Ann-Marie Brooks, a colleague of John Popler at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, is quoted in the article, which notes that the metro Atlanta region has experienced four Code Orange days since the beginning of May, meaning air quality was considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children.
Many people in the United States – an estimated 159 million – live in places that have unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone or air pollution. Ground-level ozone is created when chemicals from cars, power plants, and factories mix with sunlight. Ozone tends to be higher in sunnier climates and during hot weather. It is a main part of smog, the brownish-yellow haze often seen hanging over cities.
Although ozone levels have declined since 2000, according to the American Lung Association, many people continue to be affected by high ozone levels. Poor air quality represents a continuing health hazard to both children and adults, especially those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Children are especially at risk from unhealthy levels of ozone, as exposure to environmental ozone can irritate the lungs. This may make children more likely to suffer from asthma and related symptoms, such as cough, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
It is always important to keep you and your family healthy. During the warmer months when ozone levels are high and air quality is poor:
• Don't drive. Share a ride, take public transportation, ride a bike, or walk.
• Don't put gas in your car until after 7 P.M.
• Limit use of outboard motors, off-road vehicles, or other gasoline-powered recreational vehicles.
• Avoid mowing the lawn or using other gasoline-powered gardening equipment when the air quality is poor.
Jonathan Popler, M.D. is a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
From the time I turned 10 years old, I have been in love with riding my bicycle. I've ridden, raced, trained and commuted on a bicycle. I've worked in bike shops, run teams, coached cyclists... I just love the sport of cycling. The thing is, the bicycle wasn't really invented to be a sport. It was invented to be a mode of transportation. A way to get around that was more efficient than walking along whistling Dixie.
Unfortunately, many people have forgotten that and opt to drive in a car wherever they go. They think of cycling as something they can do on a nice day for a couple hours of exercise. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with recreational riding, but why not be able to get someplace on your bike?
As much as I love cycling, there is something extra special about riding my bike to work. I enjoy leaving my car at home, getting out there, saving gas and burning calories. It's just awesome. My commute is no "joy ride" though. On a good day, it takes me about an hour each way on some not so friendly roads.
In my 30 plus years of cycling, I've learned a lot of things to help me share the road. As I use these skills, I am able to save over a gallon of gas every time I ride (that's a $4 pay raise!) not to mention the wear and tear on my car. I arrive at work with a fresh attitude and a better outlook on life. The only thing that makes me sad while I am out on the road, is that I almost NEVER see another person commuting on a bike. Think about this for just a minute. if everybody just committed themselves to using a commute alternative just ONE day a week, you would see:
- 20% less traffic
- 20% less air pollution
- 20% less wear and tear on your car
- A healthier community
- A greater appreciation for cyclist and pedestrians as you would know they are helping!
Think about it! I highly recommend you put some TRANS back in your sportation! If that doesn't work for you - hike, carpool or work from home! Be creative. Help me change the world, one commute at a time!
Scott Patton lives in Marietta. Bike to Work Week in Atlanta is May 16-20, 2011
Today we are proud to announce the winners of The Clean Air Campaign’s first annual “Young Lungs at Work” art competition. More than 200 comic strips were submitted by elementary students across Georgia. We were so impressed by how well students expressed the issues surrounding air quality and traffic and how their individual actions make a difference. 2011 “Young Lungs at Work” entries show kids as educators, as decision makers, and as problem solvers. Blue skies ahead!
Special thanks to all competitors and congratulations to our winners! Click on the images to view the full cartoons.
1st Place: Ride the Bus!
2nd Place: Of Course! That’s How We Share the Air
3rd Place: Going “Green” Instead of Spending “Green”
3rd Place: Three Trips in One
Honorable Mention: Young Lungs At Work
Honorable Mention: Mommy and Me Walking to Publix
Several years ago a representative from The Clean Air Campaign came to one of our school nurse meetings to speak about their program. We were very impressed and I enrolled our school in the Clean Air Schools program. Fast forward years later and we are still a very active in our attempt to raise awareness about the importance of clean air.
During this school year, our teachers formed what we call a Green Team. I sent out an email asking them for help with many of our Clean Air Campaign activities and they more than obliged. One of the highlights came in late February when we held a Clean Air Week which included students holding up “No Idling signs” in the carpool lane to remind parents that an idling car can release as much pollution as a moving car.
During the week, we also asked our students and teachers to wear yellow shirts as a reminder to ride the bus. Some of our students also read daily facts each morning on our announcements that included pertinent information about ways to help the environment. Perhaps the kids’ favorite part of the week however, was when we distributed stickers as a reminder to “stick to riding the bus”.
As we celebrate Air Quality Awareness this week there are a few simple things that parents can do to make a huge difference in the air their children breathe. Two of the easiest are to monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) each day as well as sign up to receive Smog Alerts to know when concentrations of either ground-level ozone or particle pollution are forecasted to reach unhealthy levels. Clean air is becoming something to treasure. Stay healthy and happy!
Celeste Frey, RN is a school nurse at Cumming Elementary
Air Quality Awareness Week, occurring May 2-6, 2011, gives Georgia employers, commuters and schools reason to celebrate the milestones we've accomplished for cleaner air ... and remember the items that remain on our to-do list for a better Georgia. This photo with Governor Deal was taken at Monday's proclamation signing.
Thanks to a smart combination of regulatory control measures put in place over the past decade and voluntary actions that have helped bring more commuters to use alternatives to driving alone, the quality of the air we breathe is improving in Georgia. It's what happens next - in the face of population growth, increased demand for transportation options and tighter air quality standards - that will influence the air we breathe in the years ahead. There's more work to be done for cleaner air ... and we're grateful that more than 1,600 Georgia employers, tens of thousands of commuters and 350 schools have chosen to take up this mantle in partnership with The Clean Air Campaign. Happy Air Quality Awareness Week.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Since 2005, we’ve convinced more than 70,000 Georgia commuters there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Think green today – and every day – and enjoy the latest installment of Merging Lanes.
Telework Seminar Recap
A panel of telework managers representing a cross-section of industries shared their perspective earlier this week on how to make telework successful. A sampling of some of their observations:
- The lines are blurring between work and home. You see the bevy of people with laptops at coffee houses soaking in java and wi-fi. You see the legions of mobile phone users thumbing e-mail messages. In the Atlanta region, 600,000 commuters telework on occasion. That’s enough people to fill up Turner Field 12 times.
- The decision to offer telework spans a range of motivational factors from attracting talent to offloading real estate expenses to delivering a modicum of work-life balance.
- The biggest obstacle to getting buy-in from managers centers on trust. How can you trust employees to do their jobs from home when you cannot see their nose to the grindstone? Managers have to stop obsessing over this conundrum and trust their employee’s understanding of a simple code: “You have an objective. Get it done.”
Lane ends 2,000 feet.
Seeking Relief from the $700 Sting
Gas prices have climbed nearly 90 cents in Georgia between mid-September 2011 and mid-March 2012. How has this affected your discretionary spending? The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates higher prices will cost the average U.S. household $700 more this year in gasoline than in 2010. With wild predictions swirling around about the future of gas prices, now is a good time to take a look at your commuting options. In 2008, $4 a gallon was the threshold that brought more people to reconsider driving alone. What is the proverbial tipping point this go around?
Lane ends 1,000 feet.
Clean Air Schools Move to Head of the Class
The education program that brings students, teachers, administrators and parents together for less traffic and cleaner air has reached an incredible milestone on the journey to foster clean air values and awareness. 300 schools across Georgia are now involved in Clean Air Schools programs that reduce vehicle trips on campuses, reduce unnecessary idling in the carpool lane and teach youths about the link between transportation and air quality. Here’s to the next 300 schools.
Lane ends 500 feet.
Positively Mad About High-Speed Rail
Three-time Golden Globe award-winning TV drama “Mad Men” counts some big admirers of high-speed rail transit among its cast. The show takes place in NYC in the 1960s, when commuters could choose between taking the train into work or driving and being able to snag a parking spot with minimal effort. The producers shot this fun vignette about travel choices as part of an advocacy campaign for high-speed rail.
Worth a vote.
New data from the Georgia Department of Transportation shows commuting habits in metro Atlanta have changed since 2007. Fewer commuters are choosing to drive alone, and telework has become a “go-to” option for a growing number of Atlantans, surpassing carpooling and vanpooling for the first time as the primary alternative to solo driving.
Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with Sharon Terry, who teleworks five days a week from her home office in Henry County. Sharon, a nurse case manager in the national accounts department of Anthem/Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa), a Buckhead Area TMA partner, has been participating in her company’s telework program since October 2009. When she does need to make the 45-mile trek into the company’s Atlanta office once or twice a month, she typically carpools with another co-worker or takes MARTA. BCBSGa provides monthly MARTA passes for its employees free of charge.
CAC: Recent data from the 2010 Metro Atlanta Regional Commuter Survey shows that the percentage of frequent teleworkers has increased by 75 percent in just three years. Why did you decide to join that group and begin teleworking?
ST: I decided to start teleworking when my department offered the opportunity. I live 45 miles from the office and a good day’s commute would take an average of one hour. However, a typical city commute can quickly turn into a 1.5- to 2-hour commute. Having a young child at home, I felt the time spent on commuting could be spent with family and a balanced life, which my company supports.
CAC: In addition to doing your part to improve the air we breathe, what are some of the other benefits you have found by teleworking?
ST: I am so excited to telework. My stress level has significantly decreased since teleworking. My productivity is up because I can work earlier/later when needed. I don’t have to consider travel time and if there are any travel alerts. I was pleased with my job, but teleworking makes it even more exciting. I can actually spend my time with family and exercising, rather than sitting in a car for long periods of time.
CAC: How much money and time would you estimate you save per month by teleworking?
ST: I have saved approximately 11 to 13 hours of time a week and an average of $50 per week in gas. I have saved also with decreased oil changes and maintenance on my car.
CAC: Do you log your clean commute trips with The Clean Air Campaign? If so, have you ever won anything through the Commuter Rewards incentive program?
ST: Yes, I log my commute daily with The Clean Air Campaign. I have also won $25 gift cards in the past with the incentive program and the initial cash incentive.
The Clean Air Campaign is excited to announce our first annual "Young Lungs at Work" art competition. The 2011 theme is "Do Your Share for Clean Air." We’re calling on Georgia students to illustrate how pollution from vehicle emissions is harmful to the air we breathe and inspire others to do their share for clean air. Elementary students will compete in a comic strip competition. Middle and high schools students will compete, separately, in video contests.
This is a great way to get students thinking about their everyday actions and how small changes, like carpooling or not idling, can make a big difference. The art contest is open to all K-12 students in Georgia. But, for the almost 300 schools participating in the 2010-2011 Clean Air Schools program, it is a great way to get students more involved.
Winners will be announced during Air Quality Awareness Week, which takes place May 2-6, 2011. In the past, this week had traditionally focused more on commuters. But it became clear there was room to grow. Getting schools - and particularly students - more involved in Air Quality Awareness Week is an important step toward demonstrating that we all possess the ability to make a difference.
We cannot wait to feature the winning entries on The Clean Air Campaign website, in social media channels and printed materials and show off their creative talents to tens of thousands of Georgians. We will also be making donations to each winner’s school science, environmental or art program.
You never know! Maybe the next Charles Schulz or Steven Spielberg is sitting in a Georgia classroom right now. Click here to learn more about entry requirements and submission details. All submissions must be postmarked by April 15, 2011. For questions, email us or call 678-244-7724.