North Carolina News Service

May 2, 2014Available files: mp3 wav jpg

Ozone, Warming Temperatures, Coal-Fired Power Plants Impact NC Air

Stephanie Carson

RALEIGH, N.C. - This weekend many North Carolinians across the state will get out and enjoy the warming spring temperatures, but as the thermometer climbs, so too will ozone levels.

A report released this week by the American Lung Association highlights the fact the state has higher ozone levels than many parts of the country, caused in part by warming temperatures from climate change.

Janice Nolen, the association's assistant vice president of National Policy, says addressing the things that cause global warming is key to lowering ozone levels.

"We've got to have some reduction in those things that are triggering that heat to grow," she stresses. "And that means we need to have standards that limit and reduce the amount of carbon pollution that's produced by coal-fired power plants."

A handful of North Carolina cities were recognized as being among the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution - including Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greenville, Hickory and Rocky Mount.

More than 860,000 - people in North Carolina have lung diseases including adult and pediatric asthma and COPD, which Nolen says can be caused and impacted by ozone and air particle pollution.

"They can cause asthma attacks," she points out. "They can cause difficulty breathing, send people to the hospital.

"But most importantly they can shorten life. They can shorten life, as we've learned, by months to years."

Although the state has a long way to go when compared with other parts of the country, it had its lowest ozone levels on record last year since monitoring began in the 1970s, according to the North Carolina Division of Air Quality.

Nationwide, half of the country had unhealthy air between 2010 and 2012.