Chattanooga's air is cleaner than it has ever been, but as science and medicine gather more information on the relationship between air quality and health, standards get tighter. In the last two years, new standards have gone into effect for two types of pollution, ozone and particulate, and Hamilton County currently does not meet them.
The regional effects of pollution include acid rain, haze, increased lung disease and a host of other health and economic issues. The more polluted the air, the less healthy our lungs. Pollution has become a pervasive problem, as shown by a recent study, which documented that children's lungs were already showing decreased breathing capacity by the time they were in high school.
Dirty air is a regional issue. The major sources -- coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles -- send out pollutants that cross both county and state lines. Previously, most emission reduction efforts focused on industry and a lot of time and resources are still spent on making sure industry meets the mark.
But we can no longer ignore the other sources of air pollution like cars, lawn equipment and off-road vehicles. So we are turning our attention to other air pollution solutions.
State and local governments are playing a part in the cleanup. In 2003 Hamilton, Marion and Meigs counties in Tennessee banded with Catoosa and Walker counties in Georgia to form an Early Action Compact (EAC). This coalition worked to achieve cleaner air by 2007, and in the process avoiding the stigma of being declared "non-attainment" for ozone by the EPA. Being out of compliance with the federal standards can cost counties jobs, federal money and new roads.
As part of the EAC, Hamilton County is enacting four voluntary clean-air initiatives, some that focus on industry and others on vehicles.
As EPA's air quality standards continue to tighten, the Bureau continues its efforts to reduce air pollution in Hamilton County.
Air Quality Alert Days
In 2004 the APCB began Pollution Solution, an air quality alert day and air pollution awareness program. On the days the air quality exceeds certain federal air quality standards, the Bureau issues a notice to the public asking them to take voluntary measures, like telecommuting, combining trips, and refueling after 6 p.m., to help keep the air clean.
When the air is in the range that is unhealthy for sensitive groups, over 40% of the population is affected. These alerts help us work with you to decrease the adverse effects of pollution.
To be added to the contact list, call Amber Boles, PR Specialist, at 423-643-5989, or email her.
Air Quality Trends
Air quality is better now than it's ever been in Chattanooga and Hamilton County. But as the federal standards get tighter, we must work harder to meet them. Air concentrations for two pollutants, ozone and particulate, are of distinct importance because not meeting them hampers our ability to bring new industry and new roads to our hometown.