LAWRENCEVILLE -- Thanks to some rain, Gwinnettians aren't just getting a break from the stifling heat that has gripped the area this summer.
They can also breathe a little easier, since smog levels have dipped along with temperatures.
Extreme heat and ground level ozone have a direct correlation, said Brian Carr of the Clean Air Campaign. So those recent 100 degree days were not just dangerous for heat exhaustion.
"We've had a pretty long streak with some pretty cruel weather," Carr said, pointing out that an 11-day streak of days exceeding air quality standards ended Sunday.
While Carr pointed out that the number of dangerous days was larger at this time last year, the smog hasn't been this bad in a long time. For the first time in five years, officials sent out a Code Purple alert on June 29, the very worst possible level which is dangerous to everyone, not just people with asthma.
"It can almost feel like a sunburn on your lungs," Carr said of the problems with the pollution.
The issues are most extreme for people with respiratory issues like asthma and bronchitis, and like the heat, the most susceptible are the elderly and young children. But new studies are showing the long-term affects of smog could range from issues with brain development in young children to infertility in women, he added.
With rain in the forecast for the rest of the week and temperatures finally down to the 80s, Atlanta's heat wave may have ended for now. But with two months to go in the summer, not only could it be back, but the smog as well.
"It's such a hard topic to predict," Carr said, adding that not only are weather forecasts and humidity part of the formula but also the amount of traffic in a day, since half of ground-level ozone comes from car tailpipes.
"We can't control what mother nature does," he said, but noted that people can help by changing their own behaviors.
Instead of driving in a single-occupant vehicle, the Clean Air Campaign stresses alternatives such as transit, carpooling, even encouraging employers to allow people to telecommute. For information about programs and incentives, go to www.cleanaircampaign.org.