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Atlanta finally passes air quality test
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(ATLANTA - January 25, 2012) The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that, for the first time, the 20-county metro Atlanta region now meets the federal standards for air quality established in 1997.

Those standards, called the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), regulate both ozone and fine particulate matter.

"Reaching air quality attainment to the federal standards has been a long time coming," said Tad Leithead, ARC Chairman. "The Atlanta region has reached a goal that should make every resident of metro Atlanta literally breathe a little easier. Now, we can turn our attention to continuing to fight for even cleaner air for our children and grandchildren."

As the transportation planning agency for the Atlanta region, ARC is working with the State of Georgia and the EPA to ensure metro Atlanta remains in air quality attainment. It is also preparing for new, tougher regulations currently being finalized in Washington.

More About the Attainment Region

For air quality purposes, the Atlanta region consists of Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton counties in the their entireties, as well as portions of Heard and Putnam counties.

More About the Health Impacts

According to the EPA, each of us breathes more than 3,000 gallons of air each day. Polluted air causes irritation to eyes, noses and throats, and contributes to the almost 30 million Americans currently diagnosed with asthma.

Along with effects on our respiratory health, pollutants in the air also affect crops, water and animals - affecting the food chain. Other pollutants make their way into the upper atmosphere, causing a thinning of the protective ozone layer, exposing people to higher risk of skin cancer and cataracts.

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More About the Science

Fine particulate matter is defined by EPA as particles about 1/30 the width of a human hair, small enough that they can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. They are found in smoke, exhaust and other emissions that result from the burning process. Ozone is created when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds come together.