As Atlanta faces possible new federal regulations on smog limits, smog levels continue to rise in Atlanta as the constant temperatures in the 90s reflect the heat of the summer rolling in.

Everyday since last thursday, Atlanta Air Quality Index has revealed Code Orange ozone levels, which suggest that the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups like children, the elderly, people who have heart or lung disease, and those who are usually active outdoors. Ozone, formed when sunlight catalyzes chemical reactions in smog, is a lung irritant that is correlated with more asthma attacks. People who are sensitive to ozone would feel pain in the lungs when taking deep breaths. Taking deep breaths would also initially induce coughing. Such symptoms could last a couple of hours after exposure.

As some experiments show that athletes take in 20 times more air per minute while exercising, it is especially dangerous for people who are exercising outdoors during the late afternoon and early evening, when ozone levels are most concentrated. Usually damage to the lungs caused by ozone would recover as the damaged cells are replaced; however, repeated long-term exposure to high ozone levels could lead to permanent damages, like lessened ability to fight off respiratory infections. People with emphysema or bronchitis should avoid the outdoors as much as possible if they wish to recover, as their condition could worsen with air polutants like ozone.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to review its guidelines on smog levels, as the current standard from 1997 seems no longer safe with newer research. The new standard would put what is considered a day with moderate air into Code Orange-unsafe for children, elderly, and people with heart or lung disease. At the proposed level of 60-70 parts per billion, the United States could reduce 100 billion dollars of spending on health annually and prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths by 2020. When a new limit is set, the state of Georgia has 3 years to revise a plan to achieve the new standard.