Air quality officials continue health notice for eastern North Carolina


Air quality officials have continued an advisory for air pollution in eastern North Carolina on Friday as smoke from wildfires drifts downwind. Residents in the northern Outer Banks and Wilmington areas could experience unhealthy air quality, depending on wind directions.

A 10,000-acre wildfire in Hyde County and 1,500-acre fire in Brunswick County are blanketing some coastal communities with smoke that could contain high levels of particle pollution. The Hyde County fire is located on both sides of U.S. Highway 264 near the Dare County line. The Brunswick County fire is located near Clemmons Road in Bolivia.

Winds are expected to blow toward the northeast on Friday, carrying smoke from the fires to areas downwind – including Manteo, Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Wilmington. For more information, visit or

The air quality forecast estimates that particle pollution could exceed the daily standard set by the federal government. Previous measurements have found very unhealthy air pollution levels in smoke directly downwind of wildfires. The primary pollutant of concern is fine particles, which are extremely small particles and liquid droplets in the air. Particles can be harmful to breathe and contribute to haze and other air quality problems.

The air pollution forecast estimates that fine particle levels could exceed the standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over 24 hours. High particle levels can impair breathing and aggravate symptoms in people with respiratory problems, and irritate the lungs in healthy individuals. People with chronic lung ailments and children should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity.

Forecasters have predicted Code Red or unhealthy air quality in Dare and Hyde counties. In addition, residents could experience Code Orange conditions, or unhealthy for sensitive groups, in all or portions of the following counties: Brunswick, Currituck, Dare, Hyde and New Hanover. Periods of smoke may be encountered in much of the southeastern and northeastern Coastal Plain.

The forecast means people who are sensitive to air pollution should avoid or reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. Sensitive groups include the elderly, children, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with heart conditions and respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

Fine particles can penetrate deeply into the lungs and be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing or aggravating heart and lung diseases. People most susceptible to particle pollution include those with heart and respiratory conditions, the elderly and young children. Symptoms of exposure to high particle levels include: irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; coughing; phlegm; chest pain or tightness; shortness of breath; and asthma attacks.

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, forecasts are issued by the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection.

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