Jefferson and Shelby counties have an air quality problem. From the late 1970's until recently, these counties were classified as a non-attainment area for ground-level ozone by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- meaning that pollution levels exceeded federal limits.
From 2003 - 2005, Jefferson and Shelby counties met the federal eight-hour ozone standard. However, multiple high ozone days in 2006 put our area on the brink of non-attainment again. In 2008, the EPA tightened air quality standards. For Birmingham, that means the city is more likely to experience air quality violations.
Also contributing to our air quality concerns, is the substantial amount of traffic congestion in Jefferson and Shelby counties. Traffic congestion is a situation in which demand for road space exceeds supply. All of the major roadways in our region suffer from a major amount of traffic congestion throughout the day. The congestion prevents traffic from moving freely, which increases the need for alternative modes of transportation, and additional roadway capacity infrastructure and decreases the need for trip making.
Health Impacts: Ground-level ozone and particle pollution is harmful to health, especially for children, the elderly, outdoor workers and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma. Even at low levels, emissions from cars contribute to high levels of ozone in Greater Birmingham on Air Quality Alert Days.
Economic Impacts: In the 1990s, failure to clean up the ozone problem had a major impact on economic growth in Jefferson and Shelby counties, costing the region major losses in economic growth. Today the Birmingham area is still overlooked by potential new businesses due to air quality issues.
One way we can all contribute to a solution is by making smarter choices about the way we commute! The CommuteSmart program is an effective way to save money, reduce traffic and improve air quality. Using practical alternatives to driving alone; such as carpooling, vanpooling, walking, bicycling, riding the bus, and teleworking, can help save you money and improve the environment in which we live.
We know that changing commute habits can be intimidating, but CommuteSmart is designed to work hand-in-hand with commuters and employers to make it a seamless transition.
Commuters and employers can make a difference. We also encourage you to see what Alabama Partners for Clean Air is doing to help and sign up to receive Air Quality Alerts.