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Air quality report reveals good news for N.C.

Air quality report reveals good news for N.C.

North Carolinians continue to breathe the cleanest air in decades as emissions of harmful air pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter reach historic lows, according to the latest update of the “Air Quality Trends in North Carolina” report published by the N.C. Division of Air Quality. 

The report attributes the decline in air pollution to efforts from state leaders, regulatory agencies, electric utilities, industry and the public to address air quality concerns.

“Getting to this point was no accident. There’s been more than 50 years of hard work by our dedicated staff and a wide variety of stakeholders that have led to this success,” said Mike Abraczinskas, director of the Division of Air Quality. “This comes even as the state’s population and economic activity grew, showing that environmental stewardship and economic growth work hand-in-hand.”

Between 1990 and 2020, sulfur dioxide emissions fell 94%, carbon monoxide 73%, oxides of nitrogen 72%, volatile organic compounds 68% and fine particulate matter 49%.

Declines in energy production are a major contributor to these declines. More power is coming from sources such as utility-scale solar development, buildings are becoming more energy-efficient and new automobiles emit far less pollution than older vehicles did.

This new report is an update to a previous report published in October 2020. North Carolina has been in attainment with every federal National Ambient Air Quality Standard since August 2015. To read the full report, visit

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