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Outdoor burn ban returns May 1

CONYERS -- Fifty-four counties in Georgia, including Rockdale and Newton, will once again be under an open burning ban starting May 1 and ending Sept. 30, according to the state Environmental Protection Division.

This will mark the 16th year that an open burning ban has been in effect for the 13-county metro Atlanta area. The remaining counties have come under the ban since 2005.

According to the EPD, the ban prohibits the burning of yard and land-clearing debris. This is in addition to the year-round statewide ban on burning of household garbage. Some actions, such as campfires and agricultural activities, are exempt from the open burning ban.

The ban is designed to prevent the release of nitrogen oxides and particle pollution into the air, according to the EPD. Both pollutants contribute to lung and heart disease.

People, particularly children, are more apt to be outdoors during May through September, and ozone and particle pollution are generally higher during this time than other times of year.

According to the EPD, particle pollution is made up of extremely small particles that can increase the risk of a heart attack. In the summer, nitrogen oxides combine with fumes from fuels, paints and vegetation to form ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone can cause inflammation to the lungs. Burning household garbage releases even more dangerous pollution.

Monitoring of air quality shows that Georgia's air is improving, according to the EPD.

"We are working hard to improve air quality in Georgia," said James A. Capp, Georgia EPD Air Protection Branch chief. "This success is confirmation that the clean air programs we have in place in Georgia, including the open burning ban, are working."

The Clean Air Act requires U.S. EPA to periodically review the current air quality standards to ensure that they are still protective of public health. Last fall, EPA announced that they would move forward with implementation of a more stringent standard for ground level ozone. All areas of the state are currently in compliance with this standard except for Atlanta.

For more information on the open burning ban, go to EPD's Air Protection Branch website at http://www.georgiaair.org and click on the open burning flame, or call the EPD District Office. For Rockdale the number is 404-362-2671. The number for Newton is 706-369-6376.