Smog is an important issue when it comes to air quality, but it can be difficult to understand. So with smog season (May 1 – September 30) upon us, we’ve drawn up a cheat sheet with everything you need to know about smog.
What is “smog”?
Smog, a word that combines “smoke” and “fog,” is a combination of air pollutants, some that you can smell and others that are odorless. It’s a type of air pollution that gets worse with warm temperatures and lots of sunlight.
What’s in smog?
Smog can be made up of many different harmful pollutants, but the two main components most often found across Georgia are ground-level ozone and particle pollution.
If the word “ozone” sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard us eco-types talk about how important it is to protect the ozone layer, up in the atmosphere. So if ozone’s a bad thing, why are we trying to preserve it? Good question.
Turns out, when it comes to ozone, it’s all about location, location, location. Atmospheric ozone (located six to 30 miles above the Earth) is good because it helps shield us from harmful ultraviolet rays. Think of it as one giant tinted window.
But when ozone’s on the ground, it’s bad news. Ground-level ozone, made up of reactive chemicals, is extremely harmful to the lungs.
And particle pollution, a mixture of extremely small solids and liquid droplets, is harmful to not only the lungs, but the heart as well. Ew.
Where does smog come from?
Ozone is actually a byproduct of Nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Those pollutants come from places like vehicle exhaust, power plants, factories and even some consumer products, like paint and hairspray.
Particle pollution comes from the same kind of sources, like wood burning, power plants and vehicle exhaust.
When is smog season?
Georgia’s smog season is unofficially from May 1 – September 30. Remember, it’s sunlight and warm temperatures that trigger the chemical reactions that make this kind of pollution more harmful, so smog gets particularly bad in Georgia during the summer months.
What’s “The Air Quality Index”?
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a color-coded catalog that reports daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is. When air quality is good, it’s marked in green. And the worst air quality, “very unhealthy,” is marked in a dark maroon. Check it out here: The Air Quality Index
Ways to decrease smog
Remember, car exhaust plays a huge role in creating smog, and one mile driven equals one pound of pollution. So, the fewer automobiles on the road, the better.
Alternative forms of transportation, such as walking, biking, carpooling, busing, or riding transit can make a huge difference in cutting down on smog.
And what’s the best part about alternative transportation? Say it with me: AirCreds!
Don’t forget to keep logging all your air-friendly actions to rack up more points!