North Carolina's air quality earned improved rankings in the 20th annual “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association. The annual report tracks American's exposure to ozone and particle pollution, which can cause serious health effects including lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and premature death.
Fifteen cities, including Greenville, Kinston, Washington, New Bern, Morehead City, Rocky Mount, Wilson, and Wilmington experienced zero unhealthy air days for ozone pollution. However, Charlotte and Concord experienced an increase in ozone levels compared to last year's figures. The report ranks the metro area 41st most polluted city in the nation for ozone.
Greenville, Kinston, and Washington are on the nine cleanist cities list for short-term particle pollution, which consists of tiny particles from coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, wildfires, and wood burning devices. Wilmington is ranked 13th in the nation for cleanest year-round particle pollution.
The report found that more than 4 in 10 Americans live with unhealthy air quality. It also documented how warmer temperatures due to climate change are making ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up.