Raleigh – Raleigh, North Carolina with over 1,362,540 people suffered through 75 days of poor air quality due to air pollution in 2018, according to a new report from Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center, Frontier Group and NCPIRG Education Fund. Statistics from 2018 represent the most recent data available. Air pollution increases the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.
“No North Carolinian deserves to breathe one day of bad air---much less 75 days worth, ” said Jamie Lockwood, Climate and Clean Energy Associate with Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center. “Air quality will only get worse as our climate warms, so we have no time to lose. We must make progress toward clean air.”
For the report, Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathed Polluted Air in 2018, researchers reviewed Environmental Protection Agency air pollution records from across the country. The report focuses on ground-level ozone and fine particulate pollution, which are harmful pollutants that come from Western states wildfires and burning fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline, natural gas and from other sources.
"Particulate matter and ozone have been shown to worsen numerous health issues including heart disease, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases. These are three of the top five leading causes of death in North Carolina," explained Rachel McIntosh-Kastrinsky the Medical Advocates for Healthy Air Manager.
The report’s troubling findings come at a time when the federal government is further endangering air quality by dismantling protections under the Clean Air Act.
“The data show that America’s existing air quality standards aren’t doing enough to protect our health,” said Elizabeth Ridlington, Policy Analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. "As the climate warms, higher temperatures and more severe wildfires increase air pollution and the threat to human health."
Recommendations in the report include calling on policymakers at all levels of government to reduce emissions from transportation, support clean renewable energy, and expand climate-friendly transportation options with more transit, bike lanes and walkways. The study also calls on the federal government to strengthen ozone and particulate pollution standards, and support strong clean car standards instead of rolling them back.
“Instead of undermining clean air protections, our government -- at all levels -- should be taking every opportunity to clean up the air we breathe,” said Jacobson “Since transportation is the most polluting sector of our economy, we need to transition to electric cars, buses and transit. ”