Air pollution can harm people's health and damage the environment. Air pollution can harm you even if you can't see it or smell it. It also can hurt trees and wildlife, cause haze that blocks scenic views, and contribute to water pollution and climate change.  Air pollution irritates the lungs and respiratory system, and can even affect the heart. Air pollution can make asthma worse, trigger asthma attacks, or cause the onset of asthma. Even healthy people can have trouble taking deep breaths on “bad air” days, and can experience damage to lung tissues. Repeated damage, especially during childhood, can reduce lung function permanently. Particle pollution, a type of air pollution, has been linked to serious cardiac problems including arrhythmias and heart attacks.

Who’s at risk? Anyone can experience health effects – whether noticed or unnoticed – at air pollution levels of code red or above. But these sensitive groups can be affected at lower levels: All children. Children breathe at a higher respiratory rate, their lungs are still developing, and they are likely to be active outdoors. Children also have a higher rate of asthma. Older adults, because they are more likely to have diagnosed or undiagnosed heart or lung disease. Anyone with respiratory disease such as asthma or emphysema, and anyone with a heart condition such as coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure. Anyone who is frequently active outdoors. In addition, certain “unusually sensitive” individuals can experience breathing problems even at code yellow levels.

The two biggest air quality problems in North Carolina are ground-level ozone (the main ingredient in "smog") and particle pollution. Both pollutants are caused mainly by emissions from cars and trucks, and from the coal-burning power plants that supply a large amount of our electricity.  Even with cleaner cars and other new technology, our air could get worse as our population grows, endangering our health and reducing our quality of life. The good news is that by being mindful of our daily activities, we can make a few simple changes to help us all breathe easier.  To learn about things you or your organization can do to reduce air pollution and improve air quality contact us at or click on the navigation bar on the right to learn more about NC Air Awareness projects.


To learn more about air pollution and air quality in North Carolina you can browse our available brochures here at DAQ Brochures and Related Materials. NC Air Awareness items are available for FREE to NC residents. For more information, email: or call 919-707-8400 (ask for a N.C. Air Awareness team member).