The unhealthy air documented by monitoring devices in Mecklenburg and Rowan counties is just as bad in neighboring counties, a study by Catawba College and Davidson College scientists shows.
Air monitors in Mecklenburg and Rowan keep the official record of the Charlotte region's ozone pollution levels, which are improving but still above federal standards. Catawba College's Center for the Environment and Cindy DeForest Hauser, who teaches chemistry at Davidson, wanted to test the air in surrounding counties.
Volunteers from seven counties - Mecklenburg, Rowan, Cabarrus, Iredell, Davidson, Gaston and York County, S.C. -- placed devices to measure ozone and nitrogen oxide levels in their backyards over an eight-week period last June and July.
Levels were the same, on average, in all seven counties. But week-by-week comparisons showed differences. Levels in unmonitored Cabarrus County, for instance, appeared higher than those in Rowan, which the American Lung Association last year deemed the nation's 17th-smoggiest county.
The take-home message: Pay attention to Air Quality Index ozone alerts, regardless of where you live in the region. "In our own outreach, we find that a lot of people in these surrounding counties don't realize there is an issue," said Center for the Environment director John Wear.