Editorial: Air quality crosses the line

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 18, 2009

If Rowan County’s air quality is ranked 13th worst in the nation for ozone pollution, and the Charlotte region’s air is the 8th worst metropolitan area, the concern about this issue should cross all county lines ó just as our air does.
Rowan politicians have tried to pooh-pooh those gloomy rankings by pointing out that the county has more air-quality monitors than surrounding counties, some of which have none. Instead, those other counties should try to land some monitoring stations. Not measuring air pollution is hardly the same thing as not having air pollution. Ozone pollution does not stop at the county line.
Fortunately, the nation is making progress in the battle against air pollution, according to Dr. Viney Aneja, a professor and director of air quality research at N.C. State University. Speaking at the Center for the Environment on Thursday, Aneja said automakers have succeeded in curbing some of the pollutants coming from vehicle emissions ó one of the major contributors to the high ozone pollution in the region. But that’s not enough. Now, he said, consumers need to focus on their own driving habits and routines.
Little things can add up to big differences. Aneja talked about keeping cars tuned-up and tires properly inflated. Avoiding gasoline spills. Carpooling.
But a few people doing this in Rowan County won’t put a dent in the problem. It will take widespread changes ó changes that also are embraced in Cabarrus, Iredell and other counties in the region. We may need more mass transit ó and much more use of the mass transit we have. Different development patterns and changes in lifestyle may also be in order.
The first step toward change, though, is raising awareness. Rowan County is making some progress in that direction. We should invite our geographical neighbors to join the discussion.