RALEIGH: April 27, 2007 - Gov. Mike Easley has declared April 29 through May 5 “Air Quality Awareness Week” in North Carolina to coincide with the resumption of ozone forecasts across the state and asks citizens to look for ways to contribute to better air quality with temperatures expected to reach 90 degrees next week. Easley said the N.C. Division of Air Quality and local clean air programs will resume issuing daily air quality forecasts for ozone starting on Monday, April 30 and continuing through September.
“We can all take actions to help improve air quality,” Easley said. “Conserving energy is the best way for individuals to help clear the air, which also saves money and reduces our reliance on imported oil.”
Most air pollution comes from using energy, such as the fuel in our cars and trucks or coal in electric power plants. Individuals can help reduce pollution by taking simple energy-conservation steps such as driving less, adjusting thermostats at home, using compact fluorescent light bulbs and not burning trash outdoors.
Ozone is North Carolina’s most widespread air quality problem and is generally highest during summer months. Elevated levels of ozone can make it unhealthy to breathe, particularly for children, people with asthma or other respiratory problems, and adults who work or exercise outdoors. Ozone also causes millions of dollars in tree and crop damage each year.
Air quality forecasts are part of the Division of Air Quality’s Air Awareness program, which seeks to increase public focus on air pollution, its causes and ways to prevent it. Forecasts are issued for seven metropolitan areas: Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Hickory, Rocky Mount, the Triad and the Triangle. The forecasts are issued at 3 p.m. every day for the following day.
The forecasts are generally carried in daily newspaper weather report sections and on news media and weather web sites.
The color-coded forecasts show whether air quality is likely to be good (green), moderate (yellow), unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange), or unhealthy (red). On code orange and red days, the forecasts suggest things people can do to protect their health and reduce air pollution, such as limiting outdoor activities, avoiding strenuous exercise and driving less.
The Air Awareness program also helps to curb air pollution through air coalitions in the forecast areas. Coalition members voluntarily agree to help reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants on high ozone and particle days. For instance, participants encourage or offer incentives to their employees to car-pool, ride buses to work, eat lunch at their offices or take other actions that reduce driving.
More tips for conserving energy and reducing air pollution can be found in the DAQ brochure, You Can Help Clear the Air, at: daq.state.nc.us/news/brochures/tips_for_better_aq.pdf.
Air monitoring by the Air Quality Division and local air programs shows that ozone levels have declined substantially across the state since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated 32 of North Carolina’s 100 counties as ozone “non-attainment” areas in 2004.
The designation means that these areas do not meet the federal air quality standard for ozone and must develop plans for improving air quality.
North Carolina has taken a number of actions to reduce ozone, fine particles and other air pollution problems in recent years.
The General Assembly enacted the Clean Smokestacks Act, which requires power plants to reduce their ozone, particle and haze-forming emissions by three-fourths over the coming decade. Other legislation required cleaner burning gasoline and expanded the auto emissions-testing program from nine to 48 counties.
Citizens can find air quality information, forecasts and a list of local Air Quality Awareness Week events by visiting the Division of Air Quality’s web site at: www.ncair.org. The division also has a toll-free hotline, 1-888-RU4NCAIR (784-6224) where people can call to get the forecasts or find out how to join the air quality coalitions in the forecast regions.
Information on current air quality can be obtained by calling the toll-free Air Quality Index at 1-888-AIRWISE (247-9473).
Source: Office of the Governor of North Carolina.
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