2012 Air Quality Report…An Environmental Success Story for the Triad

Our region had seven Code Orange days in the 2012 air pollution season.  Those are considered "Alert" days or "Action" days and reach the AQI category of "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups."  Most of us are in a sensitive group, one way or another. For a little bit of background on the AQI, visit this page.
If you look at the trend since we started forecasting air pollution in the late 1990s, yes, air quality seems to be improving.  It's certainly improved a LOT if you look back to the 1970's when we first enacted the Clean Air Act.  I'd certainly consider it an environmental success story.  
The reason the air quality is improving is due to a number of factors in addition to the Clean Air Act.  Improvements like the NC Clean Smoke Stacks Bill, Division of Air Quality auto emissions inspections, fuel standards for "cleaner" diesel, automobiles that get better gas mileage, etc.  These are changes that are mandated, or legislated, but the rest of the strides we've made come from personal action, which I think is the most important factor in making long term changes.  We (society in general) are more energy conscious, understand about conservation a bit more than we used to, and are behaving more responsibly in our driving practices and everyday lives to make sustainable living closer to reality.  We've still got a long way to go, but we're slowly making headway, in my opinion.
Interesting too, is the fact that although the air quality seems to be improving, scientific research has shown that the health impacts of air pollution are much greater than previously thought.  For this reason, the EPA is revisiting the air quality standards to see if they need to be made more health protective.  Stay tuned…

Triad Air Awareness is a regional air quality education and outreach program housed at the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance & Protection. The program operates on Federal congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) grant funding, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Environment & Natural Resources’ Division of Air Quality and the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation. Its mission is to: “Educate and motivate North Carolinians to improve air quality for the protection and well being of the community, economy and environment.”

by Lorelei Elkins
former Board Member, Piedmont Environmental Alliance
Regional Program Coordinator, Triad Air Awareness