Air Pollution

What is it?

Air pollution is caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuel energy sources like petroleum, coal, or gasoline in our energy use, transportation, and the purchase and consumption of goods and services. Air pollutants like carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxide emissions cause unwanted side effects on the environment like acid rain or smog. Air pollution also aids in degradation of crop and water quality, which lead to further health detriments of humans and other animals. Reduced air and water quality can lead to respiratory problems and more toxic food sources, which in turn cause a higher economic impact on healthcare costs.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets national air quality standards for six common pollutants, also called criteria pollutants, to protect public health. Monitoring sites report data to EPA for these six criteria air pollutants:

  • Ozone (O3)
  • Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • Lead (Pb)

The Air Quality Index (AQI) in some of its reports and tables and to display data using the visualization tools. The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells how clean or polluted the air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern, especially for ground-level ozone and particle pollution. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.

The Ambient Air Monitoring Program provides real-time monitoring of air quality conditions in Georgia. Athens monitoring systems currently monitor for only two criteria air pollutants, ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5). The national standard for ground level ozone requirements is .070 ppm. Athens ozone readings are currently below this requirement, but our air pollutant production can still be reduced. 

ozone chart

How Can I Help?

You can reduce the production of air pollutants by being mindful of your energy use. Join the Clean Air Campaign efforts by choosing to walk, ride a bike, or use the Athens Transit system rather than driving to reduce fuel emissions. Use energy conservation methods in your home or business. Choose to purchase local produce and goods to reduce the amount of transportation needed to transport goods. 


Current Air Quality in Georgia

Map of current air quality in Georgia