Air Quality officials issue Code Orange forecast for Charlotte and Triad

Raleigh, NC

RALEIGH – Air quality officials have issued a health notice for ozone air pollution in the Charlotte and Triad metropolitan areas on Thursday.

Division of Air Quality forecasters have predicted Code Orange conditions, which means that air quality is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. People who are sensitive to air pollution should avoid moderate exertion outdoors. Sensitive groups include: children and older adults; people who work or exercise outdoors; people with heart conditions; 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 sunny days with stagnant air.

The air pollution forecast for Thursday predicts that ozone levels in Charlotte and the Triad will exceed the level of the federal standard of 70 parts per billion averaged during eight hours. High ozone levels can impair breathing and aggravate symptoms in people with respiratory problems, as well as 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 over the past decade due to measures adopted by state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce ozone-forming emissions from power plants, industry and motor vehicles. Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with hydrocarbons on hot, sunny days. Most NOx emissions result from the burning of fuels for transportation, industry and power generation.

The 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 unnecessary 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.
  • Residents of affected areas should refrain from outdoor burning on Code Orange and Code Red days. It is always illegal to burn paper, trash, construction materials and other non-vegetative matter in North Carolina.

For more information about air quality forecasts, open burning restrictions and other air issues, visit the division’s website at http://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/air-quality.

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