Approximately 98% of people in western North Carolina had no idea how severe of a problem air pollution is in our communities. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, air pollution is the cause of over 1,000 deaths per year in the state of North Carolina. Our state, therefore, ranks ninth in the country for highest number of deaths per year due to air pollution. That number does not include the hundreds of thousands of respiratory problems and heart attacks also caused by poor air quality (“Court”). Air quality in our area is dangerously low, especially in recent times. Champion paper mill in Canton, NC is on the list of the top 50 pollution causing factories in the country. That’s fairly local to most of western North Carolina’s residents (Harvard, Little, and Hager Appalachian Tragedy 162). What remains unclear to me is if people are truly, innocently unaware of the problem surrounding them, or if some people are just too ignorant to care.
If more people are made aware of the problem, they may take interest in the many ways to work together in solving the issue. Being informed may inspire them to take the incentive to change their personal habits and save their community. The air pollution in Western North Carolina has not only become a threat to the citizens, but also to the many species of plants and trees in our forests and mountain tops. The amount of air pollution in our area is so high, it is also causing acid rain. The fog in our mountains, which is loaded with moisture from rain, is also causing acid deposits in the soil of our forests. Several species of trees are dying. Even more species of plants are seeing signs of damage.
Visibility from some places that once had incredible views has practically cut in half. Records from airports in the southern Appalachian Mountain area show that since 1948 visibility in the has shrunk up to 40% in the winter. In the summer, it has shrunk up to an incredible 80%. The average visibility at the Smoky Mountains National Park is 93 miles during natural, haze-free days, but it reduces to 25 miles on average days (National Park Service). When the air is hot, it becomes stagnant causing the smog and ozone pollution in the air to thickly linger. It is these days when people should be most conscious of their energy consumption habits. These are also the times when people should consider how they can cut down on producing emissions that are harmful to our health and environment. Because of the mountains in our area, smog gets caught in the valleys. It lingers causing extreme levels of ozone on the ground and in the air. Being aware of the problem makes it easier to be aware of your contribution to the pollution. If we could reduce the production of harmful emissions during warm seasons, especially on particularly hot days, we could do a large part in saving our views and increasing visibility.
96% of people made it clear that true knowledge of the air pollution problem in our area has encouraged them to change their habits. There are a lot of simple things that just about anybody can do to reduce the amount of pollution they cause. Most of these common suggestions will not only save energy, but they will also lower the amount of harmful substances from the home. When possible, use a microwave instead of an oven. Ovens use twice the amount of energy that microwaves use. Use ceiling fans instead of central air. Central air uses approximately 98% more energy than ceiling fans (Western North Carolina). By replacing normal light bulbs with soft white fluorescent lights, you can cut down on energy usage by 75%. A six pack of Sylvania Energy Saving soft white light bulbs claims that it can save $61 in power costs over the life of each light bulb. That amounts to $366 in savings over the life of all six bulbs. Plant trees in local neighborhoods. It is said that if one person plants 300 trees, they will make up for all of the pollution they have caused in their lifetime (Western North Carolina).
Carpooling or using public transportation can also save on gasoline prices and reduce the amount of harmful emissions created from vehicles. Dr. Clay Ballentine, who works with Mission St. Joseph’s Health System, performed a study showing that half of the asthma causing nitrogen oxide in Western North Carolina comes from vehicle emissions (Court). Carpooling and using fuel efficient vehicles is not only good for the local air quality, but it will also help save on gas costs. American auto companies are losing popularity now because their fuel efficiency standards are not as good as some of the auto producers in other countries (Court). Many people argue that not everyone can buy a new car just for environmental purposes, but some states offer up to $4,000 in tax credits for the purchase of a hybrid vehicle.
When asked 68% of western North Carolina residents said that maybe if there was a yearly federal tax credit given for the purchase of hybrid cars they would be inclined to buy them. 87% said they would feel more inclined to buy energy efficient appliances if there was a federal tax credit given for the purchases. The state could also see various benefits from these purchases including cleaner air and more funding from the federal government. Many residents also feel that the state owned vehicles should be switched to more fuel efficient vehicles. The money saved on gasoline could be put towards encouraging public transportation (NC Should).
Although they are important, state laws are not the only things that need to be instated. There are legislations already made, including the Clean Smoke Stacks Act, but they aren’t well enough enforced in areas that create air pollution that lingers into the mountains of western North Carolina. Federal laws will help the problems that the state can not control. The Majority of the nitrogen oxide pollution, also known as ozone pollution, in the Smoky Mountains is created outside of the area. It is then brought in by winds (National Park Service). Factories in eastern Tennessee and other surrounding states create air pollution and the nitrogen oxide emissions are brought into our woods and neighborhoods.
So where do you come in? Do you want to help our communities and our many species of plants or would you rather remain uninformed? If anyone wants to guarantee that the air we breathe is healthy now or for generations to come, I encourage a change in personal habits. If people come together as a community to change simple things about their lives or their energy consumption habits, a real difference could be made. We are responsible for the world we live in and the many communities across the world. I suggest we all do something we can be proud of for the health of our environment.
“Court Ruling on Air Pollution Will Benefit Everyone” Asheville Citizen-Times
6 April 2007. NewsBank. Blue Ridge Community College. Web Database Access 29 October 2007.
Harvard, Ayers and Charles E. Little and Jenny Hager. An Appalachian Tragedy. San Francisco, CA. Sierra Club Books for Children.1998.
National Park Service. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “Air Quality.” 11 August 2006. 6 November 2007. http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/air-quality.htm>
“NC Should Stepout Front in Efforts On Climate Change” Asheville Citizen-Times
6 October 2006. NewsBank. Blue Ridge Community College. Web Database Access 29 October 2007. http://www.newsbank.com>
Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency. “21 Ways to Clean The Air”. 6 November 2007.