Air Quality Awareness Week highlights progress, challenges

Campaign encourages Georgians to take action

The Clean Air Campaign kicked off its Air Quality Awareness Week, which lasts through May 4, to educate Georgians about ways to reduce air pollution, for better health.

The non-profit organization, in partnership with Gov. Nathan Deal, is working with schools statewide to incorporate clean air lesson plans into classroom activities this week. 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 and individual health.

Henry County's Air Quality Groups at risk

Total Population: 203,922

Pediatric Asthma: 5,362

Adult Asthma: 11,146

Chronic Bronchitis: 6,005

Emphysema: 2,330

Cardiovascular Disease: 43,505

Diabetes: 13,687

Children Under 18: 59,657

Adults 65 and Over: 17,048

Poverty Estimate: 20,839

Clayton County’s Air Quality Groups At Risk

Total Population: 259,424

Pediatric Asthma: 6,739

Adult Asthma: 14,227

Chronic Bronchitis: 7,394

Emphysema: 2,622

Cardiovascular Disease: 51,448

Diabetes: 16,133

Children Under 18: 74,979

Adults 65 & Over: 17,236

Poverty Estimate: 57,649

––Source: American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2012 Report

Campaign officials cite recent statistics from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2012 Report, which indicates that many individuals are seriously “at risk” during days of poor air quality.

Henry County, for instance, regularly encounters high volumes of traffic locally, and along Interstate 75, which splits the county. Residents suffer from many respiratory and cardio-vascular conditions that can be aggravated by poor air quality. The report notes that more than 16,500 adults and children are affected by asthma in the Southern Crescent county.

Nonetheless, officials point out that outdoor air quality is improving in Georgia as a result of regulatory controls managed by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and voluntary programs offered through The Clean Air Campaign.

Continued population growth, however, has put more demand on energy use, and has put more cars on the roads, according to officials. The onset of warmer temperatures, combined with low humidity and stagnant conditions, also create 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.

“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 Clean Air Campaign works with more than 1,600 Georgia employers, tens of thousands of commuters and more than 300 K-12 schools to encourage actions that result in less traffic congestion and better air quality.

The organization creates customized commute-options programs for employers. Its Commuter Rewards Program provides assistance and financial incentives to commuters that enable the use of commute alternatives. The group also encourages students, parents and teachers to play a role in reducing traffic and improving air quality through an action-oriented school program.

During Air Quality Awareness Week, The Clean Air Campaign plans to 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 various sponsors, including High Country Outfitters, Patagonia, Fifth Group Restaurants and Atkins Park Tavern.  

For more on air quality, visit CleanAirCampaign.org. For information on Air Quality Awareness Week, follow @CleanAirGa on Twitter and find The Clean Air Campaign on Facebook at Facebook.com/CleanAirCampaign.

Also, see the American Lung Association’s report at: www.stateoftheair.org.