Trouble in the Air: Atlanta’s health at risk with 118 dirty air days in 2016

Media Contacts

Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center

[Atlanta, GA] –According to a new report by Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center air pollution remains a threat to public health. 5.8 million people in the Atlanta area experienced 118 days of degraded air quality in 2016, increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.

These troubling findings come at a time when the Trump administration prepares to weaken the federal clean car standards, a critical program to cut global warming emissions and increase fuel efficiency. And just this week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency will review the federal ozone standard — a standard he sued to stop when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

“To make dirty air days a thing of the past, we need to strengthen existing air quality protections and reduce global warming pollution,” said Jennette Gayer, Executive Director of Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center. “We must accelerate our progress, not hit the brakes on effective programs like the federal clean car standards.”

For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathe Polluted Air, Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and Georgia PIRG Education Fund reviewed Environmental Protection Agency records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog and particulate pollution – harmful pollutants that come from burning fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline and natural gas.

“Ozone smog is not just a summer nuisance, it is dangerous, even life-threatening. It causes asthma attacks, breathing and heart problems, and premature deaths,” explained Dr. Anne Mellinger-Birdsong a pediatrician and epidemiologist in Atlanta. “Particulate air pollution also causes many health problems, including heart, lung and neurologic, and premature death. It also damages the lung growth of all children.” 

“There’s no safe level of exposure to smog and particulate pollution,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Even low levels of smog and particulate pollution are bad for health and can increase deaths.”

The report’s authors called on the federal government to strengthen, not weaken, the clean car standards and continue to allow states to adopt stronger vehicle pollution standards. The authors also called on EPA to strengthen ozone and particulate pollution standards.

“Mothers and Others for Clean Air stands with Environment Georgia in their call for stricter air pollution standards,” said Laura Turner Seydel Co-Founder of Mothers and Others for Clean Air. “Even one child struggling to breathe through an asthma attack is one to many.”