Unhealthy air? South Fulton, DeKalb counties among the worst in Georgia

Unhealthy air? South Fulton, DeKalb counties among the worst in Georgia

SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News is taking a deep dive into a new report that shows more Americans are breathing unhealthy air.

And metro Atlanta is among the worst areas in the country.

Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach learned that about 3 million people live in the counties, from heavily populated like in South Fulton, to smaller population like Rockdale County.

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Heavy traffic, like what many people see on Camp Creek Parkway, is one big contributing factor. But the metro also scored poorly in another type of air pollution.


Five counties: Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Henry and Rockdale all get an “F” by the American Lung Association, mostly due to the number of cars on the road and burning fuel, creating increased ozone, or what we’d commonly call “smog.”

The other type of pollution is “soot,” or particles in the air resulting from emissions from things like power plants and factories.

Atlanta scored in the top-25 cities with the worst particle pollution.

The “State of the Air” report tracked local, state and federal data over three years, from 2015 to 2017.

The American Lung Association said the pollution contributes to health problems, such as asthma attacks and difficulty breathing.

“Ozone and particle pollution can literally kill people. Can shorten their lives by months to years,” said Janice Nolen, from the American Lung Association.

Overnight, Channel 2 Action News talked to some who live and work in these failing counties.

“Cause not really something that I would think about. I don’t really have any breathing issues or anything like that,” said driver Kara Pesson. “Traffic just keeps getting worse.”

Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan said weather also plays a factor.

“Ozone, it’s natural in high levels in atmosphere, but near ground, get heat in the summertime…increase ozone levels in the air we breathe to unhealthy levels,” Monahan said.

There’s good news though: The overall trend is things are getting better and the air pollution in the metro is showing a big drop.