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Why African Americans Should Care About Ozone Pollution

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Why African Americans Should Care About Ozone Pollution

Air pollution can have a serious affect on health, especially people with lung ailments
For many African Americans ozone and air pollution aren’t on our radar—but they should be. Why? Because they have serious health impacts on our families and communities.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health:

In 2010, almost 4,500,000 non-Hispanic blacks reported that they currently have asthma.
In 2010, African Americans were 30 percent more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic whites.
In 2009, African Americans were three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than the white population.
From 2003-05, African-American children had a death rate seven times that of non-Hispanic white children.
African Americans had asthma-related emergency room visits 4.5 times more often than whites in 2004.
Black children are 3.6 times more likely to visit the emergency department for asthma, as compared to non-Hispanic white children.
Children in poor families are more likely to ever have been diagnosed with asthma.
While all of the causes of asthma remain unclear, children exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke are at increased risk for acute lower respiratory tract infections, such as asthma, and children living below or near the poverty level are more likely to have high blood cotinine levels, a breakdown product of nicotine, than children living in higher income families.
These are national statistics, but they have local implications.

How air pollution impacts North Carolina’s urban areas, including the Triangle, Triad and Charlotte-metro area:

Ground-level ozone, which is caused mainly by emissions from cars and trucks and from coal-burning power plants that supply most of our electricity, is the root cause of the two main air pollution problems in the Triangle and Piedmont regions of North Carolina. Warm temperatures combined with ground-level ozone make breathing for residents in our area unhealthy.

In 2002, a hot, dry year, we experienced 29 Ozone Action Days of air quality code orange or red in the Triangle, 31 in the Triad and 36 in the Charlotte area. That’s about a month of unhealthful air conditions in each of North Carolina’s three major population centers. This isn’t a problem that will go away anytime soon.

Our warm seasons are getting longer and the temperatures are getting hotter, which means our air quality is getting worse.

The statistics on health impacts to African Americans and local air pollution are concerning, but what’s even more concerning is African Americans have decided that asthma is just a way of life for us. If and when we get diagnosed, we pick up our prescriptions, take our dose of medication as directed and move on with our life. But we don’t have to.

We have the power to create change.

Contact the EPA and tell them to tighten and finalize the ozone standards, which include higher standards for gasoline and car makers. Tell your congressional, state and local leaders to make sure they support tougher standards and oppose any efforts to block those standards.

How can you help every day?

Leave your car at home. Take the bus, car pool, van pool, walk or ride your bike to your destination.
Don’t drive to lunch. Take a meal or walk to a nearby restaurant instead of driving out to eat during the workday.
Drive right. When you do drive your car, use cruise control whenever practical and stay within the speed limit. Avoid sudden stops and starts. Plan ahead and combine short trips whenever possible to avoid cold starts. Your vehicle may be your single biggest impact on air quality. Make air quality a priority by factoring emissions and fuel efficiency into your vehicle purchasing decisions. Find how vehicles compare by using the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide or the U.S. Department of Energy’s fuel economy website.
Keep vehicles maintained. Keep your car, boat and lawn equipment tuned up and follow your car’s maintenance schedule. Engines that are well maintained are more fuel-efficient and cause less pollution.
Check your tire pressure. Keep your tires properly inflated; you’ll save gas and reduce tire wear, too.
Don’t idle. Avoid idling in drive-through lanes; park and walk in instead. Idling your vehicle wastes gas and increases pollution, and idling can damage your car more than shutting off and re-starting your engine.
Refuel at dusk. Postpone refueling your car until after 6 p.m. on Air Quality Action Days. This reduces the emissions during the peak daylight hours when ozone formation is most likely.
Don’t top off your tank. When refueling your vehicle, stop at the click to avoid spilling gas and polluting the air and surface water.
Reduce use of gasoline-powered lawn equipment. The small engines in lawn care equipment are major polluters. Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment whenever possible, and consider landscaping to reduce the amount of grass on your property. On Air Quality Action Days, wait until after 6 p.m. to use gas-powered lawn equipment.
Conserve electricity. In the summer, set your air conditioning at the highest comfortable temperature (try 78 degrees). During winter, try a setting of 68 to 70 degrees to reduce electricity use by your heat pump. Reduce wintertime particulate matter pollution from oil furnaces by keeping them well maintained. Use ceiling fans to increase both cooling and heating efficiency. Turn off appliances when not in use. Look for the Energy Star label when purchasing major appliances.
Try something different. Use water-based paints and cleaners instead of solvent-based products.
This article is from FOXYNC.com.

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Brandi N. Williams