About Clean Air Carolina

Your advocates for healthy air

Founded in 2003 by a group of passionate volunteers determined to improve the quality of Mecklenburg County’s air, Clean Air Carolina now champions a statewide initiative to raise North Carolina’s air quality to exceed that of scientific recommendations. Energized by the research-proven fact that even the smallest air pollutants are toxic to our health, and by the urgency of pollution-induced climate change, we are a team driven to advance our mission:

To ensure cleaner air quality for all North Carolinians through education and advocacy and by working with our partners to reduce sources of pollution.

We’re working to ensure North Carolina’s air quality exceeds science-based air quality standards

Before: Smoky mountains with a 9 mile visual range After: Smokey mountains with a 35 mile visual range

While air quality has improved significantly since the 90s, there is more work to be done. In order to maintain this trend of of better air quality, we must continue to advocate for strong air quality regulations.

Our Vision

We envision a future in which residents understand the connection between clean air and physical health and are working to ensure North Carolina’s air quality meets or exceeds science-based air quality standards that protect public, environmental and economic health.

What began as a coalition to advocate for clean air solutions in the Charlotte region, has evolved into a statewide initiative to improve the quality of air in North Carolina. Clean Air Carolina has taken on North Carolina’s air pollution issues head-on, specifically the realities that,

  • people take breathing for granted and assume air is clean,
  • most air pollution in North Carolina is invisible, and
  • without strong clean air policies, accelerated population growth in our state means accelerated rates of pollution… and accelerated climate change.

With a truly comprehensive, hands-on approach to improving the air quality of our state, everything we do keeps the above realities in mind, and is founded in our Core Values:

  • Everyone has a right to breathe clean, healthy air.
  • Children, whose lungs are not fully developed until they reach adulthood, need special protection from air pollution.
  • Polluters should be held responsible for emissions they produce.
  • Government officials should be held accountable for their responsibility to protect public health.
  • Science must guide clean air policy.
  • Policy must empower people to have a voice in policy making and to protect the air we all breathe.

We take a unique approach to advocacy

Using a three-pronged approach to advocacy, we partner with organizations and influencers, educate the public about the impact of air pollution, and collaborate with policymakers on issues that impact air quality.

Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA)

MAHA, a Clean Air Carolina initiative, started in 2007 as a collective of Charlotte medical professionals who sought to call attention to the health impacts of air pollution. Since then, MAHA has grown to more than 300 members statewide and includes physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers and public health professionals. MAHA leverages the wealth of medical knowledge and clinical experience of those on the front lines to publicize the relationship between more obscure concepts such as parts per million of carbon dioxide emissions and more tangible and understandable health problems like exacerbated asthma and increased rates of heat stroke.

Accredited Training for Medical and Health Professionals

Most medical and health education programs gloss over environmental health effects and limit discussions of advocacy. To rectify this omission, MAHA offers credit-bearing training that educates about ways to help patients avoid the health impacts of air pollution, and highlights the importance of engaging in air quality advocacy. This training is provided at medical schools, residency programs and conferences statewide and as a webinar on the Charlotte AHEC (Area Health Education Center) website.

Clean Construction at Hospitals

Expanding beyond individual medical and health professionals, MAHA is developing partnerships with hospital systems to engage in healthy air practices, starting with limiting toxic diesel emissions from construction equipment. A known carcinogen, diesel exhaust can be controlled when hospitals take steps to use the cleanest equipment and prohibit unnecessary idling. Novant Health reduced fine particle pollution from diesel exhaust by an estimated 33% at their Matthews Women’s Center construction site in Mecklenburg County.

Clear the Air for Kids!

We’re giving kids a safer ride to school. Our first major campaign, Clear the Air for Kids!, aimed to dramatically reduce diesel emissions from school buses to protect children’s growing lungs. We promoted the retrofitting of school buses with air quality filters and encouraged limited idling by buses and in the carpool lines. Now, by helping schools manage ozone gardens, implement anti-idling campaigns and wave the air quality flags, the program raises awareness among parents, teachers and students about the impact of air pollution on children’s health.

AirKeepers: Citizen Science in Action

We’re putting the science and the facts in the hands of students, educators, parents and community members through our citizen science initiative. We provide handheld air sensors to enable individuals to see the level of pollution they are exposed to — often in real time — and consider actions to limit future exposure, including advocating for policy changes.

North Carolina Renewable Energy

Clean Air Carolina partnered with a statewide coalition to get North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard passed by the legislature. This legislation required Duke Energy and Progress Energy to ensure that 12.5% of retail electricity comes from renewable energy sources by 2020. This was the first standard adopted in the Southeast and is largely responsible for the growth of the solar industry in North Carolina, which is now ranked third in the nation.

Wake County Transit Strategy

Clean Air Carolina endorsed the Wake County half-cent sales tax for transit which voters passed in the fall of 2016. The sales tax, expected to generate over $17 million annually, will fund the Wake County Transit Plan which introduces Commuter Rail Transit (CRT) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to the region, and incorporates new and existing bus service to complement these options.

Federal Clean Power Plan

At the federal level, Clean Air Carolina is actively supporting the Clean Power Plan, an EPA program designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants in an effort to address climate change. While this program is in jeopardy under the Trump Administration, we will continue to work with the public and private sectors to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

RePower Our Schools

Clean Air Carolina is a partner of RePower Our Schools, a coalition working to get school boards across North Carolina to increase the amount of energy conservation and renewable energy they use. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and Durham County Schools are the first two school systems we are working with. This spring, the CMS board will vote to add language expressing a commitment to renewable energy to its Environmental Stewardship Policy.

“A Healthy Ride to School”

Clean Air Carolina co-published a report entitled “A Healthy Ride to School” with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and met with officials from the NC Division of Air Quality and the NC Department of Public Instruction to advocate using state funds to retrofit North Carolina school buses to protect children’s health. Just months later, Charlotte Rep. Ruth Samuelson introduced legislation which resulted in $500,000 in state funds being added to a pool of $2 million of federal funds to clean up North Carolina’s school bus fleet.

Everyone has the right to breathe clean, healthy air but not everyone has the same opportunity to take a healthy breath.

Numbers don’t lie

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Children who live in areas of poor air quality can grow up to have lung function limited by as much as 15-20%.

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Mechanical upgrades to older school bus engines can reduce particle pollution by 85-90%.

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African Americans die or are hospitalized due to asthma at three times the rate of white Americans.

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People of color make up 56% of the population in neighborhoods within 2 miles of the nation’s hazardous waste facilities.

We’re far from being done

North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country, attracting new families and jobs every day. But sprawl-inducing new highways are expanding our urban corridors while the lack of adequate funding for mass transit challenges the air quality improvements we’ve made over the last decade. Too many policymakers and members of the public still aren’t aware of the importance of air quality to our quality of life. We need your help.

Join our movement to guard air quality by countering proposals for new highways with  proposals for modern regional transit systems. Add your voice to our call for fairer access to energy efficiency and an increase in clean, renewable energy sources. Help us grow our partnerships with medical and health professionals, community organizations, schools, and policymakers. There’s much to be done. Together, we can improve the quality of our air, and by extension, our lives.

  • Calfornia
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Georgia
  • North Carolina
  • Michigan

North Carolina is the 9th most populated state, with 10,042,802 residents in 2015.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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