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Georgia's Clean Air Force Helps Atlanta-Area Residents Breathe Easier

By Pamela Sosnowski

If you're an Atlanta-area resident that has noticed cleaner air, then you can thank Georgia's Clean Air Force (GCAF). For the past 20 years, the organization has been reducing air pollution caused by vehicle emissions and educating local motorists on how they can help maintain air quality.

GCAF was formed in 1996 as a direct result of the Clean Air Act and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which sets standards for air quality throughout the U.S. The EPA found that 13 metro Atlanta counties were not meeting government standards for air quality because of high pollutant levels.

Breathing clean air is something that most people take for granted, but as Becky Robinson, GCAF's Public Information Manager points out, "Air pollution is a serious public health and environmental issue in metro Atlanta. On average, each of us breathes more than 3,000 gallons of air each day. Breathing polluted air can trigger respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma, and aggravate health problems for at risk groups like the elderly, young children and others with heart or respiratory diseases."

Although businesses and commercial operations continue to contribute to air pollution in the Atlanta area, most of the city's air contaminants originate from gasoline-run vehicles and light-duty trucks. And the damage isn't confined just to the air, but has a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment as well. "Toxic air pollutants and the chemicals that form acid rain and ground-level ozone damage trees, crops, wildlife, lakes and other bodies of water," explains Robinson. "Those pollutants also harm fish and other aquatic life."

As a result, motorists in the 13 affected metro Atlanta counties are required to have their vehicles inspected annually in order to obtain their yearly vehicle registration. There are some exceptions; motorcycles, RVs, motor homes, diesel engine vehicles, and newer model vehicles do not require an emissions inspection.

For vehicles that do not pass the initial inspection, and the re-inspection after repairs are made, the owner may be eligible for a repair waiver if certain criteria are met; the GCAF website has more information, as well as where to get a vehicle inspected.

Since the GCAF's inception, more than 2.8 million heavy polluting vehicles have been identified and repaired since the start of the program. "Thanks in part to vehicle emissions testing, the region is experiencing measurable air quality benefits," says Robinson. "Consequently, there have been fewer unhealthy air days."

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