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Atlanta meets old smog limits; recent standards still a problem

Maintaining good air quality in urban areas is not easy. Emissions from motor vehicles, factories, and power plants react to sunlight creating a chemical fog near the surface, a ground level ozone most commonly referred to as smog. In order to help limit smog, the Environmental Protection Agency issues limits on how much pollution is permissible in a given area. And after some hard work, Atlanta recently met the EPA standards. The only problem is the EPA set those standards in 1997, and the standards set in 2008, as well as increased standards proposed for the future.

While the meeting of air quality standards, even outdated ones, is a sign of progress, many metropolitan areas still have a hard time progressing enough to really catch up to guidelines currently in place. Atlanta is doing better than some cities, however, who are still struggling even to meet 1987 standards. For businesses, it is an uphill battle as they strive to clear one hurdle only to be faced with a new challenge.

While standards are getting tougher, the technology to face the stricter requirements has also been developing quickly. Smog standards from 1997 indicated that ozone levels should be no more than 84 parts per billion (ppb). But the standards have been increased to require levels to not go above 75 ppb, and the EPA has suggested that 60 ppb is an even better standard. With better technology and more methods available to control pollutants, many believe that meeting the standards will not be as difficult as it might seem.

Breathing clean air is important. Repeated exposure to air pollutants, such as smog, can cause respiratory problems, aggravate conditions such as asthma, and intensify allergy symptoms. Businesses may also lose money in these areas because employees take more sick days and incur hospital expenses related to these problems. Though it can seem daunting for companies to meet air quality standards, they are required to. They don't do their business in a vacuum. The environment is shared, and no profit is more important than the future of the land and the people who inhabit it.

Our environmental lawyers can help those who feel that environmental compliance is being neglected or who need guidance regarding a related land matter.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Metro area reaches 1997 air quality standards -- but not newer ones," Katie Leslie and Misty Williams, Feb. 4, 2013

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