Unhealthy air quality possible in parts of N.C. this week

North Carolinians sensitive to air pollution should exercise caution this week as a plume of smoke from wildfires in Canada enters the state.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) issued Code Orange Air Quality Action Day alerts for much of central and eastern North Carolina for Wednesday, June 28.

Code Orange on the Air Quality Index represents unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups. Older adults, children of any age, and people with respiratory conditions such as asthma should limit prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

Smoke can carry elevated levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which consists of particles smaller than the width of a human hair. These particles can reach deep in the lungs and aggravate asthma and other lung conditions and have been linked to heart conditions.

Smoke can also promote the formation of ground-level ozone, a pollutant that forms on warm, sunny days and can also exacerbate heart and lung conditions like asthma. A Code Orange Air Quality Action Day for ozone is in effect today in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Union counties.

The Division is tentatively forecasting Code Orange PM2.5 conditions for the entire state on Thursday, June 29. DAQ meteorologists continue to monitor the available data and will refine the air quality forecasts for tomorrow and the rest of the week ahead of releasing each daily forecast.

DAQ monitors and forecasts ozone and PM2.5 daily using the Air Quality Index (AQI), along with the corresponding AQI color codes to help North Carolinians plan their outdoor activities. Next-day and extended products are issued by 3 p.m. with a morning update by 10 a.m. Air quality in the nine-county Triad region is forecasted by the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection.

State law prohibits the open burning of residential yard waste or land clearing debris on Air Quality Action Days of Code Orange or above. To report violations of the open burning rules, contact the DAQ regional office that serves your county.

Residents should continue to monitor air quality in their area throughout this week as conditions evolve. For the latest air quality information statewide, visit the Air Quality Portal online. DEQ’s website has a list of resources for keeping safe around wildfire smoke.

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