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Posts tagged with ground-level ozone

As the days grow longer and warmer, those across metro Atlanta recognize the arrival of summer. However, hand-in-hand with the bathing suits and barbeques is the likelihood of thick smog that settles over the city. While the early results show a forgiving start to spring and summer, air quality can change when temperatures rise and mix the sunlight and heat with vehicle exhaust emissions.

Smog is a mixture of air pollutants that are harmful to environmental and human health. In Georgia, two pollutants that present challenges are ground-level ozone and particle pollution. Not everyone is equally as susceptible to the negative effects of poor air quality, but it is important to understand who is at risk.

Luckily, The Clean Air Campaign is here to help! Expert forecasters issue Smog Alert advisories on days when the concentrations of air pollution are expected to reach unhealthy levels. Below is a guide about how to understand smog alerts:

Air pollution is not just an issue for metro Atlanta residents wishing to cycle The Beltline or picnic in Piedmont Park, but for other species around the world as well. An article published by The Independent, discusses how greenhouse gasses are turning Arctic seawater toxic for many species of marine life. Although it is hard to imagine life in the Arctic Ocean when temperatures are soaring here in Georgia, it is helpful to remember that poor air quality affects us all, and the more we learn about how pollution can affect the air we breathe, the more pressing the need to act.

For more information about air quality watch this video created by The Clean Air Campaign.

Sarah Wilgus is a Commuter Services Coordinator at The Clean Air Campaign. As a MARTA rider, she uses her commute time to listen to “Spotify” and catch up on social networking.

As Air Quality Awareness Week 2013 comes to a close, The Clean Air Campaign explores current events surrounding the air we breathe from the perspective of the American Lung Association, an ally with a presence in Georgia that publishes an annual report on air quality.  In case you missed it, both organizations participated in a webinar about air quality, which you can replay here.

Thanks to the Clean Air Act, the United States continues to make progress providing healthier air. The State of the Air 2013 shows that the nation’s air quality is over¬all much cleaner, especially compared to just a decade ago. Still, over 131.8 million people—42 percent of the nation— live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe. Despite that risk, some seek to weaken the Clean Air Act, the public health law that has driven the cuts in pollution since 1970.

The State of the Air 2013 report looks at levels of ozone and particle pollution found in official monitoring sites across the United States in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The report uses the most current quality-assured nationwide data available for these analyses.

Thanks to stronger standards for pollutants and for the sources of pollution, the United States has seen continued reduction in ozone and particle pollution as well as other pollutants for decades. Since 1970, the air has gotten cleaner while the population, the economy, energy use and miles driven increased greatly.

Georgia has several cities/counties with unhealthy levels of pollution. Key “State of the Air 2013” findings for Georgia include:

  • The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville area dropped out of the Top 25 Most Polluted Cities for ozone, ranking 28th in the nation.
  • The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area also saw slightly higher year-round levels of particle pollution and tied for 18th for most polluted in the nation (worse than last year’s ranking of 24th).
  • Brunswick and Savannah-Hinesville-Fort Stewart were recognized as having no unhealthy days of ozone pollution.
  • Macon-Warner Robbins-Fort Valley tied for 14th for most polluted city in the nation for annual particle pollution.
  • Seven of the reporting counties received an “A” for short-term particle pollution, meaning no days of unhealthy levels of particle pollution.

The Clean Air Act calls for a review of research every five years to ensure that our standards for breathable air are safe. Sulfur levels in gasoline and cleaner vehicles are currently under review by the Environmental Protection Administration. Since half of metro Atlanta’s air pollution comes from vehicle emissions, cleaner gas and cleaner cars could make a big difference in the air we breathe.

The American Lung Association urges everyone to join the fight for clean air and to learn how to protect themselves and their families from air pollution by visiting

June Deen is state director for the American Lung Association in Georgia, which is now in its second century as the leading organization in the state that is "Fighting for Air" and working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.  June has played an instrumental role in advocacy work for many years in the state, giving Georgians a voice in the conversation about smoking issues, asthma, air pollution and public health.

The views and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Clean Air Campaign.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that metro Atlanta has reached an important milestone for air quality. The region has achieved compliance with federal standards set in 1997 that determined a threshold for unhealthy air pollution, coming in under the maximum allowable concentrations for ground-level ozone. This accomplishment, years in the making, resulted from an effective blend of regulatory controls developed by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and voluntary programs such as Georgia Commute Options and The Clean Air Campaign’s Clean Air Schools initiatives.

But the celebration may not last long. That’s because the measuring stick for air quality has been made shorter in recent years. Presently, there are 15 counties in metro Atlanta that do not meet the newer, more stringent set of federal standards for ground-level ozone, introduced in 2008. So how do we clear the next hurdle? The near-term strategy our organization is working on involves reducing the smog-forming emissions that come from vehicle tailpipes. The Clean Air Campaign, working in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation and Atlanta’s transportation management associations to deliver Georgia Commute Options programs, offers solutions that help commuters use alternatives to driving alone.

More than 1,600 employers and 85,000 commuters have participated in Georgia Commute Options programs over the past decade. And more than 350 schools have taken part in Clean Air Schools programs designed to improve air quality around school communities. And while there’s no doubt the region is making progress for cleaner air, much work still remains to be done. There’s room at the table for more workplaces, commuters and schools to get involved now.

Tedra Cheatham joined The Clean Air Campaign as Executive Director in 2011, leading statewide efforts for cleaner air and less traffic. Previously, Tedra worked to advance economic growth and quality of life initiatives as Chief Operating Officer for the Greater North Fulton Chamber. 

Season’s Greetings!  Georgia employers and commuters stand at the threshold of a new year.  But before we pass through, it’s worth reflecting on 2012, and what a remarkable year it has been for transportation and air quality issues in Georgia.  Merging Lanes breaks down a handful of the events that shaped a year of big decisions in the metro Atlanta region and around the state.

EPA Introduces Tighter Air Quality Standards
The US Environmental Protection Agency finalized in the spring a standard for ground-level ozone (originally discussed in 2008) and issued designations to illustrate which areas comply with the standard and which do not.  In all, 15 counties in metro Atlanta do not meet this new standard, which represents an improvement over the 20+ counties that were previously found not to meet the prior standard.  Air quality is improving in Georgia.  But the balance between long-term population growth and increased demand for energy and transportation is a fragile one, in terms of environmental impact.  

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

Atlanta Takes a Detour from Transportation Penny Sales Tax
The nation was watching when metro Atlanta voters voiced their opposition to a penny sales tax to fund a list of 157 transportation projects in the region over the course of a decade.  With no windfall options for funding large-scale expansion to the region’s existing transportation network, the conversation turned to developing a “Plan B” alternative.  According to a recent poll conducted for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 76% of Atlantans feel traffic is a major problem.  But not everyone agrees on how improving transportation should be paid for.  While 10% suggested increasing the motor fuel tax we all pay for gasoline, 39% suggested carving out transportation funds by adding more tax to alcohol and tobacco purchases.  Another 16% indicated they would favor a special sales tax to pay for transportation.  One thing is for certain: if the region can again harness even a fraction of the interest in this issue demonstrated by the business community in the future, anything is possible to beat back traffic.

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

Third-Annual Georgia Telework Piques Conversations on Scalability
Underscoring the increasing adoption of telework as a business strategy to improve operations, more than 100 Georgia employers in the public and private sectors showed their support for Georgia Telework Week.  This commute option has continued to grow as an integral part of the way business is done in the Atlanta region, where each week more than 336,000 commuters are teleworking.  The week also drew more attention to the nearly-quarter-million commuters who believe their jobs are conducive to telework but have not yet received approval from management to do it.  In terms of raw potential, the impact of putting this group to work at their home computer instead of their office computer could erase the equivalent of the total daily traffic volume on the top end of I-285.

Lane ends 500 feet.

Inaugural Bike to Work Challenge Celebrates Pedal Power
Each week in the Atlanta region, more than 20,000 commute trips are made by bicycle.  With new findings from the medical community that warn about the risks of sedentary living – including the time we log behind the wheel in traffic – plus an energetic community of bicycling enthusiasts, The Clean Air Campaign, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and regional partners hosted the first-ever Bike to Work Challenge.  This month-long event held in October featured a points-based competition for individuals and teams of all skill levels, inviting rookie bike commuters to learn the ropes from grizzled cycling veterans.  The response was off the charts: over 17,000 bicycle commute trips were logged, resulting in 130,000 miles of vehicle travel eliminated from Georgia roads.  

In this year of big decisions, hats off to the more than 1,000 bicycle commuters who decided to drive their bikes to work as part of this event.  Here’s to more commuters making more of these kinds of decisions in 2013.


Brian Carr is Director of Communications at The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation.  A daily MARTA rail rider, Brian uses his morning commute time on the Blue Line to read about current events and play "Words With Friends."

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.

Happy National Transportation Week!  According to US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, 2012 marks the golden anniversary of an event that is rooted in education about the importance of our national transportation network.  And on a local level, the signs of new thinking on transportation are everywhere.  This week brought the launch of the “flex-lane” driving experience on the shoulder of Georgia 400.  A new airport terminal opened its doors to the world.  And The Clean Air Campaign typed up this blog entry for your enlightenment.  Some might call this an epic week.

Wireside Chats: Dial In for Details on Transportation Referendum Projects

Media attention continues to build in anticipation of the July 31 regional transportation referendum that will allow voters to choose whether to use a penny sales tax collected over ten years to fund $8.5 billion in transportation improvements across the 10-county metro Atlanta region and parallel improvement projects at differing levels of investment drawn up in 11 other regions of the state.  In a recent conversation with officials representing the Transform Metro Atlanta campaign, their hope is that news outlets and citizens will begin to dive deeper into the specific projects that the referendum would fund.  During six evenings in June, the Atlanta Regional Commission will host a series of 12 Wireside Chat events, which are hour-long interactive phone conversations centered around a detailed map of proposed projects. Local officials will provide a brief overview of the July 31 referendum and answer questions about the project list that goes with the referendum. Worth a few minutes to be part of this conversation to see what might get built near your home or workplace.  Register at

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

Halfway There: The Potential of “Park to Pedal”

May is National Bike Month.  In its role as an invitation to drivers to try bicycle commuting, the message is well-received by a growing number of people in the metro Atlanta region.  But the barrier for most remains high, given that the average metro Atlanta commute is 17.5 miles each way.  Still, this recent article in the Huffington Post outlines an idea that might work for more of us.  What if we drove partway to our work destination, parked the car, pulled the bike out of the trunk and then pedaled the rest of the way in?  In a climate of crazy gas prices and less free time to work out, this might become a worthwhile strategy to test out.  Could you do it?     

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

Costly Commuting: Driving Costs Per Mile Edge Upward

The American Automobile Association recently released its annual “Your Driving Costs” study, which examines the cost per mile to own, operate and maintain a vehicle.  According to AAA, this study has been performed annually since 1950, when the cost per mile was a whopping nine cents.  Fast forward 62 years and the cost per mile has risen to 59.6 cents per mile.  That’s up about three cents from a year ago due to higher costs for resources like gasoline and rubber to make tires, as well as higher insurance premiums and taxes.  The Clean Air Campaign uses a lower number that excludes ownership costs to illustrate the savings commuters can realize when they drive less.  Take our updated commute calculator for a spin and see what you could put back into your piggy bank.

Lane ends 500 feet.

Air Aware: 15 Metro Atlanta Counties Not Meeting Latest Ground-Level Ozone Standard

The US Environmental Protection Agency recently issued final designations for areas that have been found to be out of compliance with standards for ground-level ozone.  When the 2008 standard was implemented, the measuring stick got shorter.  So, too, did the list of counties not meeting the standard.  That’s an encouraging sign of progress, as regulatory and voluntary actions in Georgia continue to work harmoniously to improve air quality.  But with long-term growth projections and increasing energy demands, there is more work to be done.  


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.

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."

As we head deeper into autumn, the landscape is treating us to a spectacular parade of orange, yellow and red hues.  Yes, turn signals and brake lights at rush hour are indeed a sight to behold.  But it’s more fun to wax poetic about the fall leaves.  So, frolic in the foliage and rake in this latest edition of Merging Lanes.

Smog-Eating Concrete

In the future green economy of America, the streets won’t be paved with gold.  They’ll be paved with titanium dioxide.  Demonstrating that innovation knows no boundaries in the shared space between transportation and air quality, engineers in Missouri recently laid down a 1,500-foot strip of asphalt that can break down ground-level ozone pollution.  Mixed into this special blend of concrete is a titanium dioxide additive that creates a photo-catalytic reaction, absorbing smog, using sunlight to break it down, and releasing it as nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  Neat.

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

The Morning Ritual That’s Ruining Your Car’s Engine

With the chill of autumn comes those frosty mornings that all commuters must endure.  But there’s one driveway ritual that Georgia commuters should stop practicing because it can ruin a car’s performance.  Warming up the engine in the mornings by allowing it to idle can actually wear down engine parts and create more air pollution.  The practice of unnecessary idling on cold mornings can produce up to six grams of carbon monoxide per minute.  That’s equal to the carbon monoxide content from three packs of cigarettes.  Turns out, it’s also an easy way to get your car stolen.  Simply put, the best way to warm up your engine and create less air pollution on your morning commute is to drive your vehicle instead of idling.

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

Where the Germs Are

If you need extra motivation to drive less, look no further.  From the Yuck Department, a new study found that gas pump handles may be among the dirtiest surfaces that we touch.  A team of hygienists conducted tests in six cities – including Atlanta – and determined that gas pump and mailbox handles, escalator rails and ATM buttons were more likely to harbor high concentrations of germs that can lead to illness.  In all, 71% of gas pump handles tested had high contamination levels.  Gross!

Lane ends 500 feet.

Families Trapped in Vehicles
The headline of a recent article in Time magazine points out the depth of America’s car culture: “We Pay More to Drive Than We Spend on Taxes.”  Citing a new study conducted by a Washington, D.C. think tank, the article describes how difficult it is for the average American family to scale back on driving costs, even in the face of higher energy prices that influence everything from the cost of a gallon of gasoline to a gallon of milk.  Over the past decade, The Clean Air Campaign and its partners have helped more than 85,000 Georgia commuters get relief from the high cost of commuting through a combination of financial incentives and support programs.  We’re ready to help more people make their dollars go further by using commute options.


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