This chart shows air quality in Mecklenburg County. Here’s what you’re breathing

The air quality in Mecklenburg County sat at 50, which is considered safe for outdoor activities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency — but going outside when air quality is poor can hurt your health and well-being.

This graph shows the current air quality conditions in Mecklenburg County:

According to the National Weather Service, poor air quality can lead to various health problems, such as lung irritation and inflammation, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

According to Mecklenburg County Air Quality Director Leslie Rhodes, theEPA is responsible for setting national air quality standards and measuring the concentrations of outdoor pollutants and emissions.

“Mecklenburg County meets all national health-based air quality standards,” Rhodes said. “Those are measured at monitoring stations around the county that are designed according to EPA requirements.”

Here’s what to know about how air quality is measured, what causes air pollution, and how to reduce your emissions.

How is air quality measured?

The EPA’s Air Quality Index measures how clean or polluted the air is, with values ranging from 0-500. Higher AQI values mean there are greater levels of pollution in the air.

Air Quality values are divided into six categories with corresponding colors, ranging from “good” to “hazardous.”
Air Quality values are divided into six categories with corresponding colors, ranging from “good” to “hazardous.”

AQI values ranging from 0-50 are considered “good,” and air pollution poses little or no risk to the general public.

According to the EPA, as AQI values rise, some people may start to experience symptoms from exposure to ozone.

“Sensitive populations include children and older adults and anyone with cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses,” Rhodes explained.

According to the EPA, AQI values of 200 or more mean the general public is at risk for serious health effects due to ozone exposure and would trigger health alerts.

What causes air pollution?

Motor vehicles are the leading source of air pollution in Mecklenburg County, Rhodes said.

Area sources, or smaller sources that emit pollutants clustered together in a geographical area, can also emit pollutants. Examples of area sources include gas stations, dry cleaners, and restaurants.

Concrete plants, printing operations, and auto body repair shops release emissions from a single point, known as a point source.

How to reduce air pollution

Here are some ways you can reduce air pollution, according to Mecklenburg County Air Quality:

  • Buy energy-efficient appliances and lighting

  • Install a programmable thermostat to save energy

  • Use major appliances during more excellent parts of the day

  • Turn off unused lights, devices, and computers

  • Insulate your home to cut down on heating and cooling

  • Never burn trash or other artificial materials

  • Refuel vehicles and lawn equipment after 6 p.m. when ground-level ozone is least likely to form

  • Use water-based paints and cleaners instead of solvent-based products