Posts tagged with particle pollution
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.
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?
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."
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.
- Scott Davis, Air Planning Branch Chief for the US Environmental Protection Agency Region IV, discussed National Ambient Air Quality Standards designed to protect public health and welfare.
- 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.
We’re still a few months away from the start of Smog Season in Georgia, the period from May through September when ground-level ozone is most likely to form. But there’s another lingering air pollution issue that affects our health year-round. Concentrations of fine particulate matter, known more broadly as “particle pollution,” are present in the air we breathe.
If you’ve ever been within sight of a smokestack or a tailpipe, you’ve no doubt seen that black plume of smoke spring forth and then dissipate. The process of combustion (burning something, whether it be gasoline, wood, coal, etc) produces small airborne fragments of dust, soot and chemicals – so small that they are invisible to the naked eye. Particle pollution can also occur in nature: think pollen in the springtime.
Fine particulate matter is so miniscule, it’s a mere fraction of the diameter of a human hair. At 2.5 micrometers in diameter, this visual (courtesy of the US Environmental Protection Agency) puts into perspective just how small particle pollution can be:
When these pollutants are present in high concentrations, what can they do to your health? For one, particle pollution can penetrate deep into your lungs, slipping past the body’s defenses and making it hard to breathe. This can trigger asthma attacks or even create situations where emergency medical attention is needed. Particle pollution can also irritate the eyes, nose and throat.
There are ways to curb particle pollution emissions. Coal-fired power plants are adding “scrubbers” at facilities to act as giant pipe cleaners that can reduce overall particle pollution output. Certain counties enact open burning bans that prohibit citizens from burning yard waste. Catalytic converters on buses, trucks, cars and vans help reduce output. And of course driving less helps, too.
But the big-picture challenge is to reduce energy consumption in a state that is among the nation’s fastest growing. How do we motivate people to change their habits when we’re talking about a problem that is invisible to the naked eye?