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Breathe Easy–Just Not in NC

lungsNorth Carolinians won’t be breathing easier any time soon. Yesterday, the House failed to pass a measure that would restrict smoking in public and work places. The bill (HB 259) [1] sponsored by Rep. Hugh Holliman failed on a vote of 61:55.

In addition to battling second-hand smoke indoors, North Carolinians are battling increased particle pollution outdoors. A new report, “American Lung Association State of the Air: 2007 [2] ” shows a troubling trend of higher soot levels in the eastern US.

Particle pollution comes from many sources. The particles are usually a complex mixture that can include ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals, and aerosols.  In the eastern U.S., many particles come from power plants that burn coal to produce electricity. In the western U.S., many come from diesel buses, trucks, and heavy equipment, as well as agriculture and wood burning.

The report gives 4 North Carolina counties a failing grade for particle pollution: Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake. Air quality in other areas of the state was only slightly better. People most sensitive to poor air quality are children and teens, the elderly, people with asthma and other lung diseases and even healthy people who work or exercise outdoors. In North Carolina, 6.4 million people are at risk of having lung problems as a result of poor air quality.

“The increased particle pollution in the East is a particularly troubling trend, because exposure to particle pollution can not only take years off your life, it can  threaten your life immediately,” said Terri E. Weaver, PhD, RN, American Lung Association Chair.

Rep. Holliman and the other legislators who supported the smoking ban should be commended for their efforts to protect our air quality and our health. Hopefully, they will continue with their efforts. The state needs to do everything in its power to curb air pollution, indoors and outdoors so we can all breath easier.