Poor air quality likely to continue this weekend

According to a notice from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, today’s poor air quality is likely to continue through the weekend. This means air quality is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, and folks who are sensitive to air pollution should limit their time outdoors. Read the release below to learn more.

From the press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources:

RALEIGH – One of North Carolina’s worst air quality episodes in many years is expected to continue into the weekend.

Forecasters have predicted Code Orange conditions in most of the state’s major metropolitan areas and high mountain elevations for the weekend, which means that air quality is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. People who are sensitive to air pollution should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Sensitive groups include: children and older adults; 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, and high levels generally occur on days with stagnant air.

Air quality conditions deteriorated quickly on Friday, with ozone levels rising well into the Code Orange range across most of North Carolina. Ozone has even approached generally unhealthy, or Code Red levels in the Charlotte and Triangle areas. Those conditions are expected to linger well into the evening hours in those areas.

The air pollution forecast for Saturday predicts that ozone levels in the Charlotte, Fayetteville, Hickory, Rocky Mount, Triad and Triangle metropolitan areas and the ridge top elevations in the Asheville area will exceed the federal standard of 75 parts per billion averaged during eight hours. The Code Orange conditions are expected to continue on Sunday for the Charlotte, Triad and Triangle areas, as well as the ridge top elevations in the Asheville area.

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, older adults and children should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity in the afternoon, when ozone levels are highest.

The incidence of high-ozone days has declined statewide during the past decade due to measures adopted by the state and the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce ozone-forming emissions from power plants, industry and motor vehicles. Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides, or NOx, react with hydrocarbons on hot, sunny days. Most NOx emissions result from the burning of fuels for transportation, industry and power generation.

“Air emissions have come down significantly in the last decade leading to improved air quality, but a combination of the unprecedented meteorological conditions and regional pollution transport is leading to one of the most widespread poor air quality episodes in a decade,” DAQ Deputy Director Mike Abraczinskas said. “We are experiencing some of the highest ozone levels we’ve seen in many years. It’s important that people who are sensitive to air pollution, especially children and older adults, limit their outdoor exertion.”

The N.C. Division of Air Quality issues daily air forecasts for the Asheville, Charlotte, Hickory, Fayetteville, Rocky Mount and Triangle metropolitan areas. In the Triad, the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection issues forecasts. 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. Air quality officials are asking residents 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 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 all man-made materials in North Carolina, including paper, trash, and construction materials.

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/eap/.

From the WNC Regional Air Quality Agency:

Saturday, June 30, 2012 is a code ORANGE air quality forecast day for the ridge tops. This means that air quality will be unhealthy for sensitive groups. All children and active adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion in areas higher than 4000 feet in elevation. This also means that open burning will not be allowed tomorrow. Burning trash and other non-vegetative material is always prohibited.

For the valleys of Asheville, it is a code YELLOW air quality forecast day. This means that unusually sensitive people should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion, especially in the afternoon and early evening.

The extended forecast so far for Sunday is also a code orange for the ridge tops and a code yellow for the valleys. For up to date information concerning the air quality forecast over the weekend, including a detailed forecast discussion, please visit the following link: http://www.ncair.org/airaware/forecast.

Please call our office if you have any questions.
James Raiford
Air Quality Engineer
WNC Regional Air Quality Agency
49 Mount Carmel Road
Asheville, NC, 28806
Main Office: 828-250-6777
Direct Line: 828-250-6787
Fax: 828-250-6222


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