First Smog Red Alert in 2012 Warns of Unhealthy Air for Atlanta Area

Posted on June 29, 2012 by

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Atlanta, GA – The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has issued its first “red alert” for seriously high levels of smog pollution in the metro Atlanta area for today, June 29, 2012. Smog pollution, also known as ozone, forms when certain pollutants combine on hot days. These pollutants primarily come from emissions from coal-fired power plants and vehicles used for transportation. Smog pollution threatens people with asthma and other respiratory diseases, can trigger asthma attacks, and can contribute to heart attacks.The Atlanta metro area, with its summer heat, clogged roadways, and nearby coal-fired power plants, is likely to see additional red alert days in 2012.

“Atlanta is surrounded by some of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the nation, owned and operated by Georgia Power,” said Seth Gunning, with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “The impacts of this pollution on Atlanta’s families are devastating. Cleaning up Georgia’s coal plants and replacing them with clean energy will improve our health and strengthen our economy. Georgia Power should prioritize moving beyond coal to clean energy.”

In 2012, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has predicted six “smog alert” days, with eight total days having unhealthy levels of smog pollution. Additionally, EPD has predicted 58 days with moderate air quality, while 95 total days in 2012 had moderate air quality. Moderate air quality is defined by EPD as “acceptable,” according to the EPD website, but poses risks for individuals who are sensitive to ozone pollution, such as Georgians with respiratory illnesses.

Additionally, EPD has under-predicted days which had levels of pollution considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, like children, the elderly, and Georgians with respiratory and cardiovascular illness. EPD predicted five days to have poor air quality but three additional days, for a total of eight days, have seen air pollution levels sufficient to threaten the health of these sensitive groups. Friday, June 29, is the first day to have levels of pollution high enough to threaten all Atlanta-area residents, and June has the most poor air quality days for any month this year.

“Atlanta residents should take these high-smog days very seriously,” said David Emory, Chair of the Transportation Committee of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “In addition to coal-fired power plants, cars and trucks are the primary source of smog pollution. Atlanta needs to make sustainable solutions, such as regional transit and walkable, bikable communities, its primary transportation focus to reduce smog pollution.”

In a recent report from the American Lung Association, medical studies have shown that chronic exposure to lower levels of smog pollution increase the risk of emergency room admissions for children with asthma. Growing evidence also shows that people living with diabetes are at risk from air pollution, and when healthy adults are exposed to high ozone levels for a short period of time, lung function can be impaired.

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