Atlanta one of the Smoggiest Cities in America

For Immediate Release

(ATLANTA) Sept. 27, 2011 – Today Mothers & Others for Clean Air, Environment Georgia and experts from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and the Southeast Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit gathered at one of Atlanta’s most congested corridors to discuss Atlanta’s growing ozone problem. They announced the release of “Danger in the Air,” an Environment Georgia report detailing the 2011 smog season in the U.S. and areas with the highest concentrations, including Atlanta. The group revealed the latest scientific evidence from Emory researchers about the public health impacts of ozone concentrations, the transportation sector’s contribution, and the need to continue to reduce air pollution.

“Atlanta's 2011 smog season – not yet over – was a pretty bad one with 39 violations of the federal ozone standard, even though those violations are based on a limit that is less stringent than what was recommended by EPA's scientific advisory committee,” said Rebecca Watts Hull, Director of Mothers & Others for Clean Air. “It is more important than ever for our state and local leaders to take the initiative and reduce ozone-causing pollutants by every means available.”

The new report, Danger in the Air: Unhealthy Air Days in 2010 and 2011 shows that Atlanta ranks seventh among large metropolitan areas in 2010 and is on pace to place in the top three in 2011.

“Our city is already known across the nation for our ghastly commute; we don’t want to be known as one of the smoggiest cities as well,” said Jennette Gayer, Policy Advocate for Environment Georgia. “The Obama Administration’s decision to back away from stronger smog standards means we need decision makers in Atlanta to step up and adopt solutions like an expanded public transportation system.”

Also discussed at the gathering was a new commuter study being conducted by researchers at Emory and Georgia Tech.

“As commuting times and congestion increase in Atlanta, there is growing concern about the health effects of traffic emissions,” said Dr. Jeremy Sarnat, PhD, Associate Professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory. “We are conducting an intensive study of automobile commuters in the metro area, which is among the first to measure several highly sensitive, non-invasive biomarkers of oxidative stress in relation to air pollution exposure.”

Ciannat Howett, Emory’s Director of Sustainability Initiatives, pointed out that there is a timely opportunity to begin combating the Atlanta region’s ozone problem. “By expanding transit options for Atlanta residents through the Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST), we can reduce road emissions responsible for roughly half of the regions’ ozone problem,” she said.  “The proposed Clifton to Lindberg rail line would serve an estimated 10,000 boardings per day, replacing cars with transit riders for cleaner air.”

 Also on hand to discuss the impacts of smog on our health and the associated costs were Matthew Strickland, Assistant Professor, Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, and Maeve Howett, Co-Director, Southeast Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at Emory University and Assistant Clinical Professor, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.