Air quality is easy to take for granted until we experience first-hand the effects of poor air quality. You can probably relate to driving with the windows down to let in the crisp, fall air, but that enjoyment abruptly ends when the exhaust of another vehicle wafts through your car. Fortunately, North Carolina is ahead of the curve on improving air quality, which is especially important for asthmatics.
Triangle Air Awareness, a public-private partnership between the North Carolina Division of Air Quality and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, hosted their End of Ozone Forecast Season Luncheon last Friday to give the audience a snapshot of the state of North Carolina’s air quality. Speaker Sushma Masemore, PE, Division of Air Quality at the Department of Natural Resources, explained that the Research Triangle Region is meeting federal air quality standards. Masemore said that the NC legislature was ahead of the curve by enacting the Clean Smokestacks Act in 2002, which was an early action state mandate to control air pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Air quality has an effect on a variety of illness, like acute bronchitis, explained keynote speaker Dr. Kim Lyerly, professor of Surgery, assistant professor in Immunology, associate professor of Pathology, Duke University School of Medicine. Thanks to the Clean Smokestacks Act, Dr. Lyerly and his research team found a reduction in death rates for emphysema, asthma and pneumonia in NC. The research team, which published their findings in the International Journal of COPD, discovered a tight association between a reduction in pollutants and improvement in death rates related to air quality.
“The take home message for us is that we had such a forward thinking state…that they strictly adhered to a policy that reduced emissions in NC,” said Dr. Lyerly.
We will likely see even higher EPA standards in the future, but based on the proactive CSA, NC is up to the challenge.