Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


August 5, 2002

Team helps monitor ozone

By Beverly Clark

During these dog days of summer, Emory employees are working to do their part to monitor—and reduce—the ozone levels that spike the formation of smog around the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Emory is one of 20 sites in the Atlanta metropolitan area taking part in a nationwide volunteer effort to monitor ozone levels, one of the main ingredients of smog. The program is sponsored by Environmental Defense, a national nonprofit organization, and coordinated at the local level by the Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice and the Rev. Richard Bright from the Morehouse School of Medicine.

The purpose of the ozone-monitoring network is to collect data that are otherwise not available at a local level, and to build awareness of the health impacts from high ozone levels. Daily ozone levels are available at

At Emory, John Wegner, senior lecturer in environmental studies, and three colleagues (Tim Bryson of Woodruff Library, Ron Foust of the Information Technology Division and Claire Houston from Facilities Management) take turns monitoring the ozone levels at the testing site—a small stand in the FM parking lot.

Using a handheld monitor called a Zikua, the volunteers test specially treated strips that are exposed to the air for one hour in the afternoon. The badges change color in the presence of ozone (the darker the color, the higher the ozone concentration in the air). The badge is inserted in the Zikua, and a photo-optic sensor translates the badge color into an electronic ozone reading. The results are then phoned in for posting on the website.

“The volunteer effort takes a ‘citizen-science’ approach that helps to educate people about air-quality issues,” Wegner said. “It’s a really easy thing to do and a neat way to keep track of what’s going on with ozone in your backyard.”

But monitoring ozone isn’t the only thing the University is doing to improve air quality. Emory, in partnership with Georgia Power, is serving as a pilot site for the Ford Th!nk electric car in a program funded by a U.S. Department of Energy grant through the Georgia Environ-mental Facilities Authority. Since the program began in April, 80 people have trained to use the vehicles, logging nearly 2,000 hours of use.

Employees who participate in the University’s alternative transportation program are able to “check out” these vehicles during the workday to attend meetings and medical appointments, or to run errands. The vehicles can cover about 50 miles with one charge and have a top speed of 55 mph.