Lung Association Report: Raleigh/Durham’s Air Quality Improves

Report reveals fewer unhealthy pollution days for Raleigh/Durham metro area

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that the Raleigh/Durham area’s air pollution improved for the two most common pollutants, ozone and particle pollution. 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.

“Although the air pollution levels have improved, particle pollution in the Raleigh/Durham area can still 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 both ozone and short-term particle pollution, which means that there were no unhealthy days for these common pollutants.”

Ozone Pollution in Raleigh/Durham
For the first time ever, Raleigh/Durham experienced zero unhealthy days of high ozone pollution and received the designation of one of the cleanest cities. In last year’s report, the area was ranked 153rd most polluted for ozone pollution. 

Particle Pollution in Raleigh/Durham
The “State of the Air” report found that year-round particle pollution levels in Raleigh/Durham were lower than in last year’s report. The area was ranked 99th most polluted for year-round particle pollution (compared to 73rd worst last year). The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. Raleigh/Durham 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.

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 Raleigh/Durham, particle 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 shows that 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. 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 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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