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At The Clean Air Campaign, we believe all Georgia residents can benefit from better air quality. However, if you are part of the estimated 25.9 million Americans who currently have asthma, better air quality would make an even bigger difference in your life.

Things to know about Asthma:

  1. Asthma is chronic. This means it is a part of your everyday life.
  2. Asthma can be very serious, even life threatening.
  3. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed so that you can live a normal, healthy life.

To learn more about asthma, check out this video!

By making the connection between air quality and asthma, we can take the appropriate steps toward protecting those who are affected most.

What can you do?

While air quality is improving in Georgia, thanks to a combination of regulatory controls and voluntary programs, like Georgia Commute Options, there’s still more work to do. Your small actions can make a difference in the air we breathe.

Sarah Wilgus is a Commuter Services Coordinator for the 85N team at The Clean Air Campaign. As a MARTA rider, she uses her commute time to do schoolwork and listen to “Spotify.”



Happy summer! All quiet in the skies so far, with zero days experienced to this point in Georgia that have reached into “Code Orange” territory. The last time we made it to the last week of June without a Smog Alert was back in 1997 … when the debut album from the Spice Girls was on top of the charts (fast forward to 2013 and whispers of a reunion tour have grown louder in recent months). So, reach deep into your MP3 playlist for “Wannabe” and savor all that Merging Lanes has to offer in this latest installment.

For Whom the Bell Tolls: GA 400 Tolls Coming Down in November
The State Road and Tollway Authority announced recently a window of time for the GA 400 tolls to cease, along with a plan for how the corridor running through Buckhead will be reshaped. The toll collection is slated to go offline in late-November, but the toll plaza will remain longer. The prelim engineering design shows commuters will have three lanes of access all the way through the toll plaza, and discussions are still ongoing about how to repurpose the widened area of the toll plaza, possibly for greenspace or equipment storage.

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

China Seeks to Usher in New Rules on Curbing Smog
While there has been little to report about smog in Georgia so far this summer (not that we’re complaining), a vastly different story is taking shape in Asia. China's unprecedented industrial growth and modernization has brought the country to a sort of crossroads between economic progress and environmental protection. The country's policymakers are exploring new rules to curb lethal smog emissions that linger over industrial centers. But this New York Times article points out the delicate nature of enacting sweeping changes in China. Could social protest and the will of the people to protect their environment cause a Clean Air Act to spring forth in China?

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

Metro Atlanta Commuters Dump the Pump for Transit
Last week marked the first known cohesive regional effort to support the American Public Transportation Association's "Dump the Pump" event, now in its 8th year. In all, more than 1,000 commuters took the pledge to ride transit at least once during the week of June 17-21. This activity provided the ideal forum to help educate more commuters in the region about where transit can take them, from Xpress bus service in suburban areas to local shuttles and MARTA rail intown. Find out more about the region's total transit network and see what new enhancements local providers are working on by replaying last week's webinar:

Lane ends 500 feet.

Beyond the Pump: Overall Commute Costs Inch Upward
Driving alone costs more than just the gas in your tank. There's also oil, tires, wear and tear and a host of other factors that add up as the odometer wheels spin. And overall, the cost per mile to drive a car continues to go up according to the latest AAA "Your Driving Costs" study. Based on a mid-sized sedan driven 15,000 miles annually, the cost per mile to operate and own the vehicle clocks in at 61 cents, up from 59 cents a year ago. What's driving the increase? For starters, gas prices are - stealthily - higher than a year ago. But the cost to repair cars, worn down from all the miles we travel, has also risen, especially in Georgia. In fact, one study ranks Georgia as the sixth costliest state for car repairs. Before the check engine light comes on, consider driving less to make your car last longer.

Merge.

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."



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 www.stateoftheair.org.

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.



I’ve been a part of The Clean Air Campaign for eight years this August (and yes, time DOES fly when you’re having fun!). Over my years here, I’ve assisted with employer services and events, and am currently an Employer Program Manager for the State of Georgia agencies and the I-75 South region.

During any given day, I could be giving a presentation to multiple organizations on the importance of clean commuting to work as a means of reducing traffic and improving air quality. I could be counting commuters in a parking lot near you or rewarding a commuter for keeping 50,000 pounds of pollution out of the air. Like my co-workers, I spend my days trying to encourage Georgians to see the benefits of ridesharing and teleworking, joining a vanpool or walking to and from work in effort to make a difference.

Then, after the day is done, I go home. Like a lot of us, I take off my work hat, and put on my parent one. Little did I know that my work at The Clean Air Campaign would ever overlap so greatly in both my work and parenting roles. You see, my daughter relies heavily on me--because she is affected greatly by smog, and she relies on programs like ours to improve air quality. My daughter is one of many children that is treated for Reactive Airway Disease, or RAD. Smog hits her harder, and makes me work harder.

Let me preface this by saying a) I’m not a doctor or medical professional (nor claim to be), and b) there is very little of the medical terminology that I understand. But, I do know this:

We see a fabulous Pediatric Pulmonologist almost once a month and use inhalers and nebulizers twice daily. My daughter is susceptible to wheezing and coughing fits that often escalate with exposure to certain elements, including smog. In “Clean Air” terms, we pay extra close attention to smog and Smog Alerts daily. Luckily we haven’t experienced a Code Purple day since I’ve been with The Clean Air Campaign, but, we have had some Code Red days and many Code Orange days, and we don’t like those either.

So, as an employee of The Clean Air Campaign, I encourage you to research your clean commute options, and know what is happening to the air we all breathe on our daily commutes, such as every mile we’re not driving alone helps prevent one pound of pollution and carbon dioxide from going into the air. As a parent, I ask you what you are going to do to keep the air clean for our kids to breathe, play and grow.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22 and Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia takes place April 29-May 3, 2013. To celebrate, why not clean commute for the first time? Every little bit helps little lungs (and big ones) breathe easier. And, if you have questions or need help finding the perfect clean commute, I may know some people.

Lettie Hernandez Ongie is an Employer Program Manager with The Clean Air Campaign. For the past six years, she has assisted the State of Georgia’s various agencies with implementing clean commute options and programs, her personal favorites being Telework & Compressed Work Weeks. An avid teleworker, Lettie enjoys using her extra hour saved on telework days to spend time with family and blog.



Curious about congestion? Seeking enlightenment on environmental issues? When inquiring minds want to know about the latest happenings influencing Georgia’s transportation and air quality, they turn to Merging Lanes.

Where can you find the 7th-worst traffic in the US?
 
Right here in metro Atlanta, according to the latest edition of an annual study led by the Texas Transportation Institute. That’s one spot worse than last year’s #8 ranking. So, what are the key takeaways from the latest report? Overall, not a whole lot has changed dramatically from last year to this year in the data. Delay from traffic – above and beyond normal commute travel times – takes away from each commuter in the region an average of 51 hours over the course of a year (up an hour over last year’s data). That’s more than an entire weekend out of your year that goes up in smoke. The average cost of delay to each peak-period commuter nets out to $1,120 annually, up slightly from the prior year ($1,106). The pessimists out there may be inclined to lash out in frustration over the loss of time and money. But if you’re an optimist, look at it as time and money that could be restored to your life by making greater use of commute options.

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

How did they do that?

From Gizmodo.com, this story about a complicated and awe-inspiring dig using giant-sized drilling machinery to create a 5.6-mile network of additional rail capacity under NYC. Frankly, it makes Andy Dufresne’s tunnel from “The Shawshank Redemption” look rather pedestrian.

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

Where’s the riskiest place to live when you’re recovering from a heart attack?

A recent medical study reinforces the link between fine particle pollution and heart health, finding that heart attacks are deadlier in areas where soot is more prevalent, making it all the more difficult to live a healthy life after experiencing a heart attack. Conducted in Britain, the study followed more than 150,000 people who had received medical treatment/intervention for heart failure. Examining air quality data where these people lived and tying that information to demographic characteristics for zip codes showed those living in lower-income and less educated zip codes had higher mortality rates. This falls in line with other studies that note poorer physical health in poverty-stricken areas. For a crash course on meaningful ways you can help protect the air we breathe, click here.

Lane ends 500 feet.

What tricks could Georgia learn from Utah in dealing with persistent smog challenges?

Admittedly, the topography and climate are very different between here and there. But a few time zones away, regions in Utah have already experienced three weeks of Code Orange and Code Red smog conditions so far this year, brought on by stagnant weather patterns and fossil fuel burning. This New York Times article outlines the challenges facing Utah residents and policymakers, but check out the very end of the article describing the possibility of the legislature creating free public access to transit and instructing state agencies to take steps to mitigate air pollution when smog is at its predictable worst. Could these policy-driven approaches work here in the Peach State?
 
Merge.

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."



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. 



The recent severe weather outbreak across North Georgia is a prime example of why I became a meteorologist. It all started as a teenager growing up in South Texas. I remember being fascinated with all severe weather elements: lightning, thunder, tornadoes, hail. The weather drew me in and I wanted to know more. This is why I made severe weather my passion.

After surveying the recent Adairsville tornado, emotions were running high. The other reason I became a meteorologist became valid. I wanted to save lives. To see all the mangled trees, houses and overturned cars choked me up. To track the storm in the studio is one thing, but to see the actual devastation literally took the breath out of me. At the end of the day I found comfort knowing that I quite possibly saved lives. That's the best feeling in the world.

Outside of severe weather I still have to keep people safe from all elements. Here in Atlanta, air quality can get bad in the summer months and become unhealthy. This is where The Clean Air Campaign comes in. They are a great group to work with. They prepare air quality alerts for the area when smog and ozone are at high levels. In turn, I pass that information on to you so you can take precautionary measures to protect yourself. I enjoy working with them on stories that can help cut down on pollution for our area. If we can improve our air quality, everyone will enjoy a better quality of life.

In honor of National Weatherperson's Day, I invite you to think of your local meteorologist in a different way. We're more than just a person talking about how gorgeous your weekend is going to be. We're here to protect you.

Cris Martinez joined CBS Atlanta News as the Severe Weather Meteorologist in August 2009. He can be seen anchoring the weather on weeknights. Cris worked in both Texas and Florida before his move to Georgia.



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.



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