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State urges residents 'be aware, reduce,' air pollution

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Gov. Sonny Perdue has proclaimed the week of April 28-May 2, 2008, Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia.

The week will be geared toward increasing awareness of state's air quality and reducing air pollution and its negative effects on people's health and well-being.

"The negative health effects and the bottom-line impact of poor air quality are compelling," said Kevin Green, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign.

"The science continues to show serious health effects at lower levels of pollution," he said. "Air Quality Awareness Week presents an opportunity for all Georgians to educate themselves on air quality and learn simple actions they can take to reduce emissions."

In the past decade, the number of counties in Georgia that failed to meet federal air quality standards rose from 13 to 28 due, in part, to more stringent air quality standards and to the state's population growth, according to Green. About half of the air pollutants in those counties are from cars and trucks.

In 13 metro-Atlanta counties [which includes Clayton and Henry], all gas-powered passenger cars and light-duty trucks with model years between 1983 and later must pass an annual emission inspection before being issued license plates and license renewals.

Georgia's Clean Air Force (GCAF), tests approximately 2.3 million vehicles each year with more than 750 testing stations and 900 testing lanes statewide.

The GCAF was created as a part of the Clean Air Act in 1996 and serves as the state's Enhanced Vehicle Emission Inspection and Maintenance Program.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) is responsible for measuring air pollutant levels throughout the state and issues Smog Alerts when levels are expected to exceed federal air quality limits in the metro Atlanta region

"We monitor for a number of different compounds in the air," said Susan Zimmer-Dauphinee, Georgia EPD ambient monitoring program manager.

The compounds that pollute the air can cause respiratory difficulties for some people who have asthma and other lung and cardiovascular diseases. And the intensity of those pollutants can vary depending on the day and time of day and source.

Ozone and fine particles, for instance, can come from various sources, according to Zimmer-Dauphinee.

"With ozone, there is nothing that gives it off directly," said Zimmer-Dauphinee. "Ozone includes oxides, nitrogen, and volatile organic compounds that react with sunlight."

A source of ozone is tail-pipe emissions that heat up and react chemically during optimal sunlight hours.

"For ozone, the concentrations are usually lowest in the morning," she said. "Levels are usually highest in the late afternoon [between about 3-6 p.m.]. With fine particles from smoke or tail pipe emissions, we find that we can have higher concentrations in the morning."

The Georgia EPD forecasts for levels of ozone, beginning May 1 - Sept. 30, also known as SMOG Season.

The season marks the height of air pollution, when rising temperatures, stagnant wind, and high humidity can concentrate air pollution to unhealthy levels for many with respiratory problems.

Zimmer-Dauphinee advises that those with respiratory problems keep updated daily on their local air quality conditions.

Such local air quality forecasts are available at the Georgia EPD Web site or at (404) 362-4909.

The Clean Air Campaign also provides a public health service through e-mailed notifications. Forecasts are also posted daily at the Clean Air Campaign Web site.

"Every person in the state has a stake in improving air quality and the first step is to make residents aware of how day-to-day activities contribute to our problem," said Green.

"...each mile driven adds one pound of pollution into the air," he added. "Using an alternate method of commuting like carpooling, riding transit or tele-working reduces potential harmful pollutants. The fact is that changing individual habits can have a significant impact."

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On the net:

Georgia EPD:

www.air.dnr.state.ga.us

Clean Air Campaign:

www.CleanAirCampaign.com

Clean Air Force:

www.cleanairforce.com