What is a Code Orange? Atlanta smog alerts explained

A Code Orange smog alert is typically issued as temperatures climb past 80 degrees, bringing a wave of summer-like heat to the region.

With Atlanta’s heat and high pressure, the metro is often under a Code Orange air quality alert.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index, commonly used for reporting daily air quality, a Code Orange air quality means air quality conditions are unhealthy for sensitive groups.

The AQI values, which are calculated for the four major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act (ground level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide) run from a range of 0 to 500, with the 301-500 range signifying hazardous air quality conditions. This hazardous range is considered a Code Maroon.

A value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to harm public health, but AQI values under 100 are generally considered satisfactory.

During a Code Orange, AQI values jump to the 101-150 range.

Who’s at risk during a Code Orange air quality alert?

According to the EPA, “people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.”

Those with asthma and people who are active outdoors are also at risk.

How to prevent health issues during a Code Orange air quality alert

To avoid being exposed to unhealthy air quality during a Code Orange smog alert, the EPA recommends spending less time outside exerting yourself. For example, you may want to reduce the amount of time spent in your yard or opt for a walk instead of a jog to avoid heavy exertion that causes you to breathe hard.

If you begin experiencing any unusual coughing, chest discomfort, breathing difficulty, fatigue or wheezing, it’s especially important to reduce your activity level.

It’s also recommended that people with heart disease, such as angina, try to avoid sources of carbon monoxide, like heavy traffic.

Learn more about the AQI at airnow.gov.