Local area has some of the cleanest air in the nation

Published 6:15 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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The Greenville-Kinston-Washington metropolitan area has some of the cleanest air in the country for ozone and 24-hour particle pollution in the nation, according to the American Lung Association’s (ALA) State of the Air report published earlier this year. 

The report looks at two threatening air pollutants, fine particles and ozone. Ozone is bad for human health because it can “damage the tissues of the respiratory tract.” This can cause inflammation, irritation and create symptoms like coughing, chest tightness and worsening of asthma. It can also cause damage to crops, forests and native plants, according to the California Air Resources Board. 

State of the Air shows that the Greenville-Kinston-Washington metropolitan area is ranked 181 worst for annual particle pollution out of 200 metropolitan areas. 

The report collected data from 30 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Of those counties, all except two received an A rating for not having high ozone levels. Union County received a C rating for having four days at an orange level. Its neighbor, Mecklenburg County, received a failing rating for having 11 days in an orange level. Ozone days are divided into ascending order from orange to red to purple days. 

State of the Air looked at 18 counties for particle pollution of which Pitt was included. All of the counties received a passing grade and none were below a C. Pitt County received an A rating for having no days with high particle pollution. 

On a national level, the report shows that progress has been made compared to last year’s results. Though 36% of the American population (119.6 million people) lives in an area with a failing grade for ozone and particle pollution, that is 17.6 million fewer people breathing unhealthy air compared to last year’s data. 

The improvement was seen in falling levels of ozone in many places around the country, the continuation of a positive trend that reflects the success of the Clean Air Act. However, the number of people living in counties with failing grades for daily spikes in deadly particle pollution was 63.7 million, the most ever reported under the current national standard,” according to the ALA. 

The Clean Air Act was put into law in 1970 with the purpose of regulating air emissions from mobile and stationary sources, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This establishes air quality standards to “protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants.”