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Posts tagged with air quality

So it’s back-to-school time, which means that Clean Air Schools programs are gearing up to bring the pursuit of less traffic and cleaner air to the younger set. Since children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, the effort to improve air quality within school zones is an important one. But what does clean commuting look like in a school setting?

Actually, The Clean Air Campaign’s school programs are pretty similar to our employer and commuter tools. Where workplace commuters are encouraged to carpool, take public transit, and enforce No Idling, school commuters have Pool to School, Ride the Bus! for Clean Air, and…well, No Idling.

Last year, more than 300 Georgia schools participated in Clean Air Schools programs—giving an estimated 600,000 students, parents and teachers the chance to breathe better, cleaner air at school. And this year, we’re looking to promote student involvement and leadership, both in the existing programs and through a couple newer initiatives designed with younger leaders in mind.

One of those newer tools is Breathe Easy, a series of toolkits that guide elementary and middle school students through leading a No Idling, Pool to School or Ride the Bus program in their schools. Similarly, our high school Get There Green program charges student groups with developing a sustainable transportation plan that addresses the congestion and air quality issues in their school community. And the new online platform OnAir (, launched last spring, encourages teens to take individual action by allowing them to rack up “AirCreds,” points for air-friendly actions.

School programs offer the chance to help kids form clean-air habits early, habits we hope will stick with them throughout their lives. If you’d like to learn more, visit or send us an e-mail at

Note: Registration is now open for all Clean Air Schools programs, available for pre-K through 12th grade. Join us today!

Heading into the Independence Day holiday week, several regions in Georgia have been dealing with sizzling temperatures that have triggered Smog Alerts to warn of unhealthy outdoor air quality.  Here's a quick review of what has been going on the past few days and what we might expect for the week ahead:

Metro Atlanta

The capital region logged its first Code Purple day in many years on Friday, June 29, indicating air quality was very unhealthy for all.  There were also Code Orange days (unhealthy for sensitive groups) on Saturday, June 30 and on the first day of July.  More unhealthy conditions are predicted for July 2.  While the region has experienced many shades of unhealthy air in the past few days, the belief is that the Code Purple and Code Red conditions last Thursday and Friday were more exception than rule.  Nonetheless, it's important to reach a little deeper into the suggested actions to help reduce air pollution.  In addition to using commute options, look for ways to curb unnecessary idling, defer on yardwork projects involving gas-powered tools, combine errands and stay informed about air quality conditions.

Other Areas in Georgia

The Augusta area logged a couple of Code Orange days over the weekend.  Macon and Athens also each encountered Code Orange conditions.  With regard to weather patterns, many cities around Georgia approached all-time record-high temperatures in recent days.  While we all continue to wait for a change in weather conditions, it's important to stay hydrated, stay informed about air quality and stay mindful of the actionable ways you can help reduce air pollution.

Bringing an inauspicious start to the weekend, unhealthy concentrations of ground-level ozone are predicted in a few regions across Georgia today, which could create breathing challenges for people.  Smog Alerts were distributed for Atlanta, Augusta and Macon. 

The Friday forecast issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for the Atlanta region indicates air quality may reach into Code Red, an indication that ozone levels could be unhealthy for everyone.  If it comes to pass, this would mark the first Code Red day experienced in Atlanta in two years.  The combination of sweltering heat plus tailpipe emissions and stagnant air may have an impact on a wider cross-section of the population, triggering the advisory to limit outdoor physical activity.

Atlanta may not be the only region battling unhealthy conditions, as Augusta and Macon are also each under a Code Orange advisory for today, indicating conditions are expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups that include children, the elderly and those with acute respiratory illnesses.  Suggestions for these groups also include limiting prolonged exertion outside.

Find helpful tips here on things you can do now to reduce air pollution.  If you're planning to be outdoors, keep watch over family and friends to make sure they don't overexert themselves, and build in lots of water breaks.  Stay cool and stay informed about forecasts for the next few days while we all try to find relief from this heat wave.

The Clean Air Campaign recently won an award from the the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.  Hosted annually, the APEX Awards honors organizations for exemplary standards in business development, employee programs, business innovation, contribution to DeKalb County and the Metro Atlanta Region.  The Clean Air Campaign was recognized for its partnerships with DeKalb employers and commuters to reduce traffic and improve air quality.

The Clean Air Campaign nets award from DeKalb Chamber.  Pictured from L-R: Leonardo McClarty, President, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce; The Honorable Karla Drenner, GA House of Representatives, District 86; Tedra Cheatham, Executive Director, The Clean Air Campaign; Betsy Mercier, President/CEO, CDC Federal Credit Union and Vice-Chair, DeKalb Chamber Small Business Committee; Brandon Clark, Employer Program Manager, The Clean Air Campaign; Karl Humphrey, President, Mail Centers Express, 2012 Apex Awards Chair

The Governor has declared the week of April 30 as Air Quality Awareness Week.  

Over the past few years there have been tremendous improvements in air quality in the state, particularly in metro Atlanta.  In the past 10 years, the official ozone level in metro Atlanta has decreased by 19% and the official annual particulate matter level has decreased by 26%.

Air quality continues to improve as older cars are replaced with newer ones, as older power plants are modernized with state-of-the-art air pollution controls, and as power plants are converted from coal to natural gas usage. 

For example, April 30 marked the final day of transition from coal combustion to natural gas at the Plant McDonough power plant on the northwest side of Atlanta.  This project was very beneficial from both an air pollution perspective and energy supply perspective.  The replacement of old coal generating units with state-of- the-art natural gas units resulted in an increase in electric supply of more than 2,000 megawatts (equivalent to replacing the entire existing power plant and then adding an entire new large power plant all at the same site) coupled with a decrease in air emissions of 27,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide, 3,700 tons of nitrogen oxides, 1,700 tons of particulate matter and 116 pounds of mercury.

However, there is still work to be done to ensure that everyone, particularly children and individuals with respiratory challenges, has clean air to breathe every day.

Last fall, U.S. EPA decided to move forward with the implementation of a more stringent air standard for ozone set in 2008.  Currently, all areas of the state are in compliance with this standard except metro Atlanta.  It is anticipated that metro Atlanta will have until the end of 2015 to attain this standard.  If we don’t make it, we will automatically “bump up” to a higher classification that would result in the imposition of additional mandatory federal requirements.  

Georgia is already implementing more stringent air standards for both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and so far the entire state is meeting these new standards.  In addition, U.S. EPA has announced intentions to propose a more stringent standard for particulate matter that could be finalized as early as next year.  It is in our best interest both economically and environmentally to meet these challenges, and we will be working with our stakeholders to do so.

Jac Capp is air protection branch chief at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Clean Air Campaign partners gathered in Midtown Atlanta during the midpoint of Air Quality Awareness Week to earn their "MBA: Master's in Better Air."

The "Air We Breathe" seminar offered learning opportunities from air quality experts, covering health issues, regulatory progress and actionable ideas that can make a difference.  Here are some highlights from the event:

  • According to Dr. Jeremy Sarnat, associate professor at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, air quality issues have been present for centuries, as evidenced by hieroglyphics from Egypt that illustrate difficulty breathing and a Renaissance painting style that attempted to depict atmospheric pollution that can be seen in works like DaVinci's Mona Lisa.
  • While respiratory issues have been the primary focus of scientific studies, new evidence suggests other systems are affected by exposure to polluted air, including the reproductive system, nervous system and circulatory system.  The more we learn about the harmful effects of air pollution, the more important it becomes to take action.
  • Studies show that air quality can affect life expectancy.  A famous study examined ambient air pollution in six cities in the US over a period of 15 years and found differences in life expectancy based on concentrations of particle pollution.  A follow-up study also showed how coordinated changes actually brought improvements to life expectancy.
  • Expressed in terms of costs relative to benefits, by the year 2020 the Clean Air Act could deliver a projected $2 trillion in health benefits at an implementation cost of $65 billion.
  • Changes were announced by EPA this week related to ground-level ozone regulations.  With the implementation of the 2008 standard, fifteen Metro Atlanta counties were recommended for designation as a marginal non-attainment area based on data indicating ground-level ozone concentrations exceeded federal standards.
  • Other regulatory decisions on the horizon could see a new standard announced for particle pollution in June, based on new evidence from the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee on public health and welfare impacts.
  • Clean Air Campaign Executive Director Tedra Cheatham walked through actionable ways Georgians can limit their exposure to unhealthy air and reduce their contribution to air pollution problems. 

For more background on the air we breathe, including the science behind air quality and ideas on what you can do to protect yourself, visit the "Your Transportation and Air Quality" section of The Clean Air Campaign's website.

Working as a school nurse has really opened my eyes and mind to the importance of The Clear Air Campaign. Outdoor air pollution created by idling cars, among other factors has an impact on everyone’s health, however children are more susceptible.

Children’s immune systems are still developing, they have smaller airways and they inhale more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults. Since children tend to breathe through their mouths rather than their noses, this type of breathing does not allow for cilia and mucous found in the nose to trap the foreign particles in the air and stop them from entering the lungs.

In Georgia an estimated 10 percent of children have asthma, a chronic disease of inflamed airways and lungs which restrict a child’s ability to breathe. It can sometimes be life threatening. During an asthma episode or attack the airways narrow and it becomes difficult to breathe. There are three factors that contribute to this occurrence:

  • The muscles around the airways tighten, narrowing the airways.
  • The airways narrow and are blocked due to swelling and inflammation.
  • More mucus than usual is produced inside the airways, further blocking them.

The Clean Air Campaign teaches us how we can improve the situation by making simple changes in our everyday routines such as riding the bus, carpooling to school and not idling our cars.

Checking the cleaning products we are using and not using aerosol sprays is also important. Remember, today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders. They need us to be role models for them and help keep them healthy. Together we can do that.

Adrienne MacDonald is the School Nurse at High Meadows School.

April 30 - May 4 marks Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia.  The state has made great strides in the past decade on improving ambient air quality.  But with half of all smog-forming emissions coming from the tailpipes of cars and trucks, there is more work to be done.

Governor Deal Signs 2012 Air Quality Awareness Week Proclamation

Pictured (L-R): BAIR, The Clean Air Campaign; Phil Peevy, Georgia Department of Transportation; Chuck Mueller, Georgia Environmental Protection Division; Tedra Cheatham, The Clean Air Campaign; Mini Smith, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal; Sonny Longo, Kimberly-Clark Corporation; Matthew Fowler, Georgia Department of Transportation; Tony Vazquez, Bank of America; Ron Jarvis, The Home Depot; Brian Carr, The Clean Air Campaign


Learn more about the science behind the air we breathe and get a big-picture perspective about smog challenges in Georgia.  For tips on how you can reduce air pollution, at home, at work or on the go, click here.  You can also take part in a fun competition on The Clean Air Campaign's Facebook page that kicks off later today called "Caption for Cleaner Air."

Hope you had a terrific Earth Week!  The celebration of environmental conservation, protection and sustainability couldn’t possibly fit into just one solitary day anymore.  And the parade of innovative ways to green the globe has truly gone …well, global.  In fact, when it comes to improving the quality of the air we all breathe, clever ideas are springing up all over the world.  So, to celebrate Earth Week, The Clean Air Campaign scoured the Earth to bring you these success stories from afar:

London: Pollution Glue Traps Fine Particles

With particle pollution emissions creating health challenges, London has found itself in a sticky situation as the city prepares to host the Olympic Games in a few short months.  But engineers have developed a winning solution you won’t believe: applying a special “pollution glue” to road surfaces has helped trap fine particles, preventing them from going airborne.  Studies indicate repeated applications on select thoroughfares have reduced particle pollution by 10% over a 24-hour period.


Manila: Smog-Eating Paint Artfully Covers City Walls

Smog in the city of Manila doesn’t stand a chance, thanks to a new idea that could forever alter the meaning of the phrase, “paint the town.”  Artists are painting giant murals on the sides of buildings using a special smog-eating blend of catalytic paint that filters out nitrogen oxides.  The manufacturer claims that coating 11 square feet of a surface with this special paint filters the same amount of air pollution as one full-grown tree.

Credit: BBC

Spain: Building Transit Ridership through e-Book Offers

QR codes are springing up everywhere.  And in one district in Spain, a transit operator has found a creative way to tackle pollution and literacy at the same time.  Train riders in Catalonia can scan QR codes on wall posters hung inside the cars to download the first chapter of select novels onto their mobile devices for some fun diversion on the commute.  Truly a progressive idea.  Imagine having this opportunity on a GRTA Xpress bus or a MARTA line.


When it comes to doing the right things for the planet, we’re all in it together.  That makes Earth Week a terrific occasion to think and act green no matter where you are.  Tell The Clean Air Campaign about other unique ideas you’ve found out there to help improve the air we all breathe.  And be sure to mark your calendars next week for Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia, taking place April 30-May 4.

Fourth and fifth grade students at High Meadows School were beginning a unit of study on conflict. They were challenged to identify a conflict on campus that was related to our natural resources.  There were certainly litter problems, recycling efforts that could be improved, but this had to be a conflict, which by definition must have two opposing viewpoints. Not many people could argue that littering is a good thing, nor that recycling is a bad thing…so they had to dig deeper.

Several students observed that cars seemed to idle their engines during carpool and everyone knows that idling cars cause air pollution. If everyone knows and they do it anyway, then perhaps the conflict is embedded in differing perspectives. 

Hmmm...deeper digging would be necessary. 

Ok, so students reasoned if people know idling causes pollution, but they do it anyway, perhaps there is something they value more than clean air in that moment. What could that be? Upon further investigation students learned parents had small children in the car during carpool, and with blazing hot temperatures still around in September, it simply wasn’t safe or comfortable to sit in a car without air conditioning. So now we have a conflict! Some people understood that an idling car caused air pollution, and turned off their cars showing their value of clean air. Others not only didn’t fully understand the impact idling had on clean air and the health of kids outside the car, but also perhaps valued the health of their small children inside the car.

Through the use of empathy and compassion, students realized people on both sides of the conflict had valid and reasonable points. This led to students also ruling out the possibility of having a good guy/bad guy situation on either side of the conflict and called into action the need for critical thinking and problem solving.

Through classroom discussion students discovered they weren’t clear on what was fact and fiction regarding the impact of idling cars on the quality of air. Students sought out a clean air expert from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and invited him to educate them on the science behind car idling. 

They discovered many beliefs they held were not based in science, including arguments on both sides of the conflict. They felt empowered and compelled to share their findings with our larger school community. By now they fully understood that a negative and shaming message would do nothing but alienate the audience they wished to convince.  They had to find a way to empower the parents with information and provide solutions.

After taking a survey to learn how many cars were idling, students decided an educational campaign during Clean Commute Week in October could be the path to success. 

Next step was to synthesize the information they had learned from the CDC into attention-catching posters while keeping the message positive. Although challenging, the students prevailed and for three days during Clean Commute Week they walked the carpool line with their original and convincing signs. They also handed out no idling stickers and answered any questions parents had about idling. The students were thrilled when the Clean Air Campaign BAIR came to assist their efforts! 

This entire process resulted in the students using empathy and compassion to convince 99% of our carpooling parents to turn their cars off! Students also decided on a follow-up campaign that will take place the week before Earth Day in April to remind our parents of their commitment to Clean Air!

Michelle Aldenderfer-Griffin is an Environmental Education Teacher/Coordinator at High Meadows School in Roswell