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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Release: Immediate
Date: May 31, 2011
Contact: Tom Mather
Phone: (919) 715-7408 (work); (919) 218-0441 (cell)


Air Quality Officials Issue Code Orange Health Notice for Ozone

RALEIGH - Air quality officials have issued a health notice for air pollution in the Charlotte, Fayetteville, Rocky Mount, Triad and Triangle metropolitan areas on Wednesday.

Forecasters have predicted Code Orange conditions, which means that air quality in these areas is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. People who are sensitive to air pollution should avoid moderate exertion outdoors in the afternoon. Sensitive groups include children and the elderly who are active outside, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other respiratory ailments.

The primary pollutant of concern is ozone, a highly reactive form of oxygen. Ozone can be unhealthy to breathe, damage plants and reduce crop yields. High ozone levels generally occur on hot, sunny days with stagnant air, when pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons react in the lower atmosphere.

The air pollution forecast for Wednesday predicts that ozone levels will exceed the federal standard of 0.075 parts per million averaged during eight hours. High ozone levels can impair breathing and aggravate symptoms in people with respiratory problems, and irritate the lungs in healthy individuals. People with chronic lung ailments, the elderly and children should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity in the afternoon, when ozone levels are highest.

The N.C. Division of Air Quality issues daily air forecasts for the Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville, Hickory, Fayetteville and Rocky Mount metropolitan areas. In the Triad, forecasts are issued by the Forsyth County Environmental Affairs Department. The forecasts are part of the N.C. Air Awareness Program, a voluntary effort aimed at reducing air pollution in the state's major metro areas. As part of this program, air quality officials are asking residents of Mecklenburg and surrounding counties to help reduce air pollution by taking some of the following actions:

  • Limit driving by riding the bus, walking, bicycling or postponing trips.
  • If you drive, avoid idling for long periods of time, stay within speed limits, combine errands to reduce the number of small trips, and use vehicles with higher fuel economies.
  • Conserve electricity by setting thermostats at the highest comfortable temperature and turning off appliances that are not in use.

In addition, residents of affected areas should refrain from outdoor burning on Code Orange and Red days. It is illegal to burn paper, trash, construction materials and other non-vegetative matter in North Carolina. The DAQ estimates that more than half of North Carolina's residents live in counties where ozone levels exceed the standard during warmer months. In 1999, the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation aimed at reducing ozone-forming emissions from cars and trucks, including an expansion of the motor vehicle emissions inspection program from nine to 48 counties. In 2002, the General Assembly enacted legislation that will require the state's coal-fired power plants to reduce their ozone- and haze-forming emissions by three-fourths during the next decade.

For more information about air quality forecasts, open burning restrictions and other air issues, visit the division's website at www.ncair.org or call 1-888-RU4NCAIR (1-888-784-6224). Information about air quality in the Triad can be found at http://www.co.forsyth.nc.us/EnvAffairs/default.aspx .

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Diana Kees, Communications Director
Phone (919) 715-4112
1601 Mail Service Center 
Raleigh, NC 27699-1601
diana.kees@ncdenr.gov
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Last Modified: Tue May 31 15:37:45 2011
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