The air in the area may be unhealthy for some people sensitive to pollution, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which had placed the Atlanta area under a Code Orange alert as of Friday, May 11.
Under a Code Orange alert, sensitive groups, including the elderly, children and people with existing respiratory issues, should reduce their time outdoors and limit strenuous activities, said Dika Kuoh, the assistant branch chief for air protection with the Georgia DNR. However, Kuoh said the alert is issued based on predicted pollution levels, and the DNR “errs on the side of caution” in issuing alerts.
Kuoh said ozone is the main pollutant in the area, and ozone levels can rise during the warmer months, especially if there has not been much rain.
“The hotter and drier the summer is, the more ozone is formed,” he said. “The hot, dry summer days where there’s not a lot of air circulating, we will tend to have a high ozone level.”
Ground level ozone is formed when emissions from vehicles, power and chemical plants and other pollution sources react with heat and sunlight, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Ozone is mainly a concern from April 1 to September 30, and people should pay attention to ozone levels when it is hot and sunny, according to the EPA.
Stratospheric ozone, which occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere, is beneficial and protects people from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, according to the EPA.
Only seven counties in Georgia do not meet ozone air quality standards, according to a May 2 release from the Georgia DNR. Hall County meets the standard.
The DNR does not measure ozone levels in Gainesville, although the measurement at 1 p.m. Friday in Dawsonville was 0.037 parts per million, according to DNR data. That is well below the national standard of 0.070 parts per million, Kuoh said.The DNR posts its air quality data and alerts at airgeorgia.org.