Air Quality Awareness Week kicks off today to educate Georgians about meaningful actions to reduce air pollution for better health. Throughout the week, The Clean Air Campaign, a non-profit organization, will be working with schools statewide to incorporate clean air lesson plans into classroom activities. Georgia employers are also encouraged to observe the week by offering carpool, vanpool, transit, telework, bicycle and walking options to employees as a solution to improve air quality.
Outdoor air quality is improving in Georgia, thanks to a combination of regulatory controls managed by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and voluntary programs like those offered through The Clean Air Campaign. However, continued population growth has put more demand on energy use and more cars on the roads, which means there’s still work to do. Plus, the onset of warmer temperatures, combined with low humidity and stagnant conditions, creates ideal conditions for smog in Georgia.
The Clean Air Campaign suggests taking advantage of commute alternatives and choosing other activities such as reducing unnecessary engine idling to reduce air pollution.
“Air Quality Awareness Week is a reminder that small actions can make an immediate, positive impact on the air we all breathe,” said Tedra Cheatham, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign. “Commuters, employers and schools all play a role in this issue because in many areas of Georgia, half of smog-forming emissions come from vehicle tailpipes.”
The Georgia EPD measures air pollution throughout the state and issues daily air quality forecasts for Atlanta, Columbus and Macon. The Air Quality Index, a national air standard rating system developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, provides the public, on an hourly basis, with an analysis of air pollution levels and possible related health risks. The AQI categories are: Good (green), Moderate (yellow), Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (orange), Unhealthy (red) or Very Unhealthy (purple).
Exposure to ground-level ozone can irritate and inflame the airways, creating a sensation that can feel like sunburn on a person’s lungs, and particle pollution poses risks to the cardiac system.
Because poor air quality has been linked to a variety of health hazards for children, the elderly, asthmatics and even healthy adults, The Clean Air Campaign distributes Smog Alerts via email when the next day’s air quality is projected by the EPD to be Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (orange). More than 20,000 Georgians have registered to receive Smog Alerts.
In addition to earning financial incentives for clean commuting through Commuter Rewards, residents can also take part in a competition that awards prizes for helping spread the word about the importance of clean air.
During Air Quality Awareness Week, The Clean Air Campaign will host a “Caption for Cleaner Air” Facebook contest in order to encourage participation in commute alternatives. Beginning April 30, participants can submit photo captions for various images such as cars in traffic, smog in the air and commuters riding transit. Winners will receive prizes that have been donated from a variety of sponsors, including High Country Outfitters, Patagonia, Fifth Group Restaurants and Atkins Park Tavern.