Lung Association Report: Charlotte’s Air Quality is the Worst in the Southeast Region

Report reveals more unhealthy ozone pollution days for Charlotte metro area

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Charlotte’s ozone pollution got worse, and the area now has the worst ozone pollution in the Southeast Region. See the full report at

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period – this year’s report covers 2017-2019.

“The levels of ozone seen in Charlotte can harm the health of all of our residents, but place our children, older adults and people living with lung disease particularly at risk,” said Christine Hart, manager of the Healthy Air Campaign at the Lung Association. “Fortunately, the area was ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, which means that there were no unhealthy days for this common pollutant.”

Ozone Pollution in Charlotte
Compared to the 2020 report, Charlotte experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” found that Charlotte had a weighted average of 6.0 days (an F grade) with unhealthy levels of ozone, worse than the weighted average of 4.7 days in last year’s report. The area is ranked the 34th most polluted for ozone pollution, which is significantly worse than their ranking of 52nd last year. 

Particle Pollution in Charlotte
The “State of the Air” report found that year-round particle pollution levels in Charlotte were higher than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 61st most polluted for year-round particle pollution (compared to 64th worst last year). The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Charlotte was ranked as one of the cleanest cities for short-term particle pollution, which means that there were no unhealthy air quality days for particle pollution (an A grade).

The report also shows that nationally, people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. This is especially pronounced in Charlotte’s West End, which is mostly African-American. According to a report by the Historic West End AirKeepers and Clean Air Carolina, the African-American neighborhoods were historically developed near the major railroad line and the industrial area, and eventually where the three major highways were rerouted. As a result, this area sees significantly more ozone pollution and particle pollution. 

The “State of the Air” report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In Charlotte, ozone pollution placed its residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as older adults, children and people with a lung disease. The report also finds that climate change made air quality worse and harder to clean up.

The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular damage and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.

The Lung Association advises North Carolina residents to pay attention to the daily air quality index (AQI) to know when to take extra precautions to protect your health. You can check the AQI for your zip code at On bad air quality days, it is important to limit outdoor activity to prevent possible asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing or even heart attacks.  

Learn more about “State of the Air” at and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Jill Dale at [email protected] or at 312-940-7001. 

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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