Local News

Heavy Traffic and High Heat Combine for Poor Air Quality in the Triangle

Posted May 22, 2000

— The Triangle is near the top of another national list, but this time, it is far from an honor. TheAmerican Lung Associationranks its air as the 17th worst in the country.

Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill do not have huge factories filling the skies, so why is our air in trouble?

Ozone forms when certain emissions react with sunlight. Ozone levels go up in the summer when there is higher temperatures, increased sunlight and less wind.

A UNC ozone researcher says the Triangle's unique combination of heavy traffic, high temperatures and abundant sunlight puts it in a league with Los Angeles, and puts many respiratory patients on high alert.

"It is not just asthma, but chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other kinds of lung ailments appear to be worsened with ozone," says Dr. David Pedan.

Megan Foster and her family moved from California to get the 10-year-old asthma sufferer away from all the air pollution. Learning the Triangle has some of the highest ozone levels in the country her family rethinking their decision.

Jeff Greene of the American Lung Association believes we can all do something to fix the problem.

"We really think that people need to take this seriously, to start being more efficient with their car -- maybe going inside instead of drive through, maybe taking public transportation and really holding our government, both local and on the statewide basis, accountable for doing more to reduce air pollution," he says.

The report also lists Caswell, Chatham, Cumberland and Granville counties as having a high number of ozone days in unhealthy ranges.

The Triangle is not the only area in the state to get bad air quality marks:

  • Charlotte has the 8th worst air in the country, ahead of bigger cities like Atlanta and New York.
  • Los Angeles is one of five California cities in the top ten.Eighteen cities were applauded for their good air:
  • Honolulu and Colorado Springs are the biggest cities with the best air.
  • Yancey County is the only North Carolina county to receive an "A" for air quality.

    Hundreds of thousands of people in North Carolina need to be aware of dangerous ozone levels.

    According to the American Lung Association, more than 400,000 people in the state suffer from asthma, more than 50,000 people have emphysema, and 5,500 people in North Carolina suffer from lung cancer.

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