The onset of warmer weather in Georgia, combined with sunshine and stagnant winds, creates ideal conditions for ground-level ozone to form, a main component of smog.
While isolated thunderstorms have aided in washing pollutants out of the atmosphere, the threat of air pollution looms, and officials with The Clean Air Campaign are reminding Georgia residents that they can take action to improve air quality.
In celebration of Air Quality Awareness Week, May 2-6, The Clean Air Campaign plans to help educate Georgia students, citizens and employers about the health effects of air pollution, and steps they can take to clean up the air. The non-profit organization will also work with the Georgia Department of Education to bring clean-air lesson plans and activities to classrooms across the state.
"Air quality in Georgia is improving, and the state is making progress," said Kevin Green, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign. "But there is more work to be done. Breathing is not optional, and with new, health-based information, air quality standards will likely become more stringent later this year."
Vehicle exhaust is a leading contributor to ground-level ozone pollution in Georgia, according to Green. He said The Clean Air Campaign works with employers and commuters, to reduce vehicle emissions through options such as carpooling, vanpooling, riding transit, teleworking, walking and cycling — strategies which offer alternatives that also save commuters money and reduce traffic congestion.
A sign reading, "No Idling," is posted in the loading zone at East Lake Elementary School in McDonough, one of 15 area members of The Clean Air Campaign's Clean Air Schools Program. The sign reminds parents that idling vehicles give off harmful emissions, according to Stacey Barnes, assistant principal at East Lake.
"I think every child deserves to breathe clean air, and as grown-ups, we need to protect our children and provide the cleanest air possible for them," said Barnes.
The Clean Air Campaign plans to provide more than 320 Clean Air Schools the opportunity to learn about air quality during Air Quality Awareness Week, according to Green. Schools will use the week to teach air-quality lesson plans provided The Clean Air Campaign and the Georgia Department of Education.
Green said air pollution contributes to health problems, not only for children, but for the elderly, asthmatics and even healthy adults. Exposure to ground-level ozone can irritate and inflame the airways, and particle pollution poses risks to the cardiovascular system.
While the primary target is the respiratory system, he said, air pollution also targets the heart and the immune system. For more on air quality, visit www.CleanAirCampaign.org.