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|What's the Problem?
Air pollution can harm people's health and damage the environment. Air pollution can lead to breathing problems such as asthma and emphysema. Too much exposure to pollution during childhood can permanently reduce lung function. Some types of air pollution also can cause heart problems. Air pollution can harm you even if you can't see it or smell it. It also can hurt trees and wildlife, cause haze that blocks scenic views, and contribute to water pollution and climate change.
The two biggest air quality problems in North Carolina are ground-level ozone (the main ingredient in "smog") and particle pollution. Both pollutants are caused mainly by emissions from cars and trucks, and from the coal-burning power plants that supply most of our electricity.
Even with cleaner cars and other new technology, our air could get worse as our population grows, endangering our health and reducing our quality of life. The good news is that by being mindful of our daily activities, we can make a few simple changes to help us all breathe easier.
North Carolina Air Awareness Program
The North Carolina Air Awareness Program is a public outreach and education program of the North Carolina Division of Air Quality. The goal of the program is to reduce air pollution though voluntary actions by individuals and organizations. The program seeks to educate individuals about the sources of air pollution and explain how the health effects of air pollution can be minimized by modification of outdoor activities on ozone action days. In addition, the program aims to inform the public of ways to minimize production of air pollutants to improve air quality over time.
N.C. Air Awareness has local programs in: the Triangle, the Triad, the greater Charlotte area, the greater Hickory / Unifour area, Fayetteville, and the Asheville area.
NCDAQ works closely with local air agencies and councils of government to accomplish program goals. Although some program activities are centrally coordinated from the NCDAQ Raleigh Central Office, locally based area coordinators direct most local program activities. In the Triad and Charlotte areas, the local Air Awareness Programs are housed in the Forsyth County Environmental Affairs Department (FCEAD) and the Mecklenburg County Air Quality agency, respectively. In Asheville and the Triangle, local programs are housed at the NCDAQ Asheville Regional Office and the NCDAQ Central Office.
Program components are:
- The ozone forecast. The most visible element of the program is the ozone forecast, seen by a large segment of the public on local TV news weather segments. Expected ozone levels, in terms of color code and Air Quality Index (AQI) number, are forecasted for April 1 - September 30 by NCDAQ meteorologists. These forecasts are distributed to local media (television, radio, and newspaper) and to area businesses and individuals. The forecast is also displayed on the NCDAQ web page. Separate forecasts are issued for the Triangle, Charlotte, Hickory, Rocky Mount, Fayetteville, and Asheville. The FCEAD issues air quality forecasts for the Triad.
- School-based outreach. Program staff conduct "Dare to Know your Air" educator-training workshops. Workshop participants can earn credit toward Environmental Educator certification (through DENR OEE) as well as continuing education credits. Program staff also give classroom presentations at area schools. To learn more about school outreach programs, read the "For Teachers" page on the Air Awareness website. (**Please note that, due to budgetary constraints, air quality workshops have been temporarily postponed; see the website above for more information.)
- Regional Air Quality Coalitions. As Coalition members, area business, agencies, and organizations multiply NCDAQ's education efforts by distributing the ozone forecast to employees and providing education about air quality. Regional Coalitions in Asheville, Hickory, the Triad, Charlotte, and the Triangle count over 500 businesses and organizations statewide.
- Public outreach. The North Carolina Air Awareness Program utilizes a wide range of web and media outlets to broadcast our message to the general public. These include statewide radio messages covering open burning, idle reduction, clean air tips, and much more. Through both local coordinators and state representatives, our program regularly exhibits at health, environmental, and state fairs and festivals. Toll-free air quality hotline 1-888-RU4NCAIR. Information may also be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.