Tips to reduce air pollution
- Car pool, van pool, take transit, bike or walk.
- Work from home.
- Combine your trips and errands to reduce driving.
- Refuel vehicles after 6 p.m. And when you fill up, don’t “top off.”
- Drive a well-maintained vehicle and keep tires properly inflated.
- Don’t speed.
- Avoid unnecessarily idling your vehicle.
- Avoid drive-thru lanes. Park your vehicle and walk inside.
- Make fuel efficiency a priority for your next vehicle purchase.
Transportation by the numbers
14.3 percent: Hall County average for commuters who carpool
10.5 percent: State average for commuters who carpool
34.3 percent: Average of Hall County residents who commute outside the area
Source: Clean Air Campaign
Northeast Georgia’s recent rainy weather may disappoint some, but it’s got one advantage — better air quality.
The region has experienced a record-breaking number of days with healthy air, according to the Clean Air Campaign, a nonprofit organization in Atlanta created to increase awareness of air pollution.
Brian Carr, director of communications for the Clean Air Campaign, explained that the climate affects air quality.
“Weather patterns have a pretty big influence over how much or how little unhealthy air there is,” he said. “So with this whole season so far, it’s been pretty remarkable in that we’ve had a lot of rainfall, a lot of cooler temperatures, and that has helped to become a positive influence on air quality.”
However, Gainesville and the surrounding area saw a break from the ever-present precipitation with a few sunny days last week, which led to air quality becoming unhealthy for sensitive groups on Tuesday.
With hot temperatures comes stagnant air, which can essentially stimulate the pollutants in the air and create an environment prone to smog and haze.
“With the onset of warmer weather,” Carr said, “it’s more likely that ground-level ozone can form because it requires heat and sunlight that mixes together with pollution that comes from tailpipes and factories. It can hang heavily in the air for a period of several hours or several days, and, of course, the antidote to that would be rainfall and cooler temperatures to help disperse it.”
Low-quality air can harm health, especially to those who are “sensitive,” including children, the elderly and those with respiratory ailments such as asthma or bronchitis.
Poor air quality can cause coughing, shortness of breath, respiratory issues and irritation in the throat and lungs. Long-term exposure, which Carr defined as eight hours, can have more serious consequences.
“The effects of long-term exposure to ground-level ozone (are) synonymous with what would feel like a sunburn on your lungs,” he said. “The lining(s) of your lungs and air passages become inflamed because your body doesn’t know how to process ground-level ozone. This can create fatigue and make it difficult to breathe.”
A person’s level of activity also influences air pollution’s effects on the body.
“When your body is at rest,” Carr explained, “you’re less likely to experience the effects as dramatically.”
However, when a person is active outside, such as participating in yard work, exercise and especially children playing outside, “you’re more likely to feel the effects from ground-level ozone exposure,” Carr said.
Many factors contribute to air pollution, but traffic plays one of the largest roles. According to Carr and research from the Clean Air Campaign, 50 percent of smog-forming emissions in the metro Atlanta area come from the tailpipes of cars and trucks.
Traffic can become even more congested as the school year starts in Hall County on Aug. 12.
“It’s very important to keep in mind the number of trips that come into and out of a school campus can have a pretty significant effect on the health of the students,” he said, “especially when you consider that in the car lines, it’s likely that there will be long periods of time when engines will be running, waiting to pick up children.”
Carr said more people are choosing to carpool though, with Hall beating the state average.
He said there are many ways for people to help improve the quality of the air around them, such as driving less, whether it be carpooling or avoiding idling in drive-through lanes at fast-food restaurants.