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Release: Immediate
Date: June 29, 2012
Contact: Diana Kees
email: diana.kees@ncdenr.gov
Phone: 919-707-8626

Air quality officials issue Code Red health notice for the Charlotte forecast region

RALEIGH - Air quality officials have updated the air quality forecast to Code Red for the Charlotte area today. This Code Red forecast covers Cabarrus, Lincoln, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Union and southern Iredell counties. Air quality officials have issued a health notice for air pollution for all North Carolina air quality forecast regions on Friday. 

Forecasters have predicted Code Red conditions in the Charlotte area, which means that air quality will be unhealthy. All children and older adults, people with respiratory disease such as asthma, and people who are active outdoors should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion.  Everyone else should limit prolonged outdoor exertion from late morning through late evening.

Forecasters have also predicted Code Orange conditions in most other major metropolitan areas and high mountain elevations, which means that air quality is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. People who are sensitive to air pollution should limit prolonged exertion outdoors. 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 hot days with stagnant air. 

The air pollution forecast for Friday predicts that ozone levels in Charlotte, Fayetteville, Hickory, Rocky Mount, Triad, Triangle, and valley and ridge top elevations in the Asheville area will exceed the federal standard of 75 parts per billion 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, older adults 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 region, which is also under a Code Orange health notice for tomorrow, forecasts are issued by the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection. 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. 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/eap/.