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Asheville Air Quality

Information about our region's air quality & monitors, Indoor air quality, resources, and more.

WNCRAQA staff operate an ambient air monitoring network in Buncombe County to determine levels of ground level ozone and fine particles. These are key pollutants of concern here in the southeast.

While ozone in the stratosphere is beneficial in shielding us from harmful ultraviolent rays, ozone at ground level is actually a health hazard. Ground level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOx and VOC. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. Ground level ozone can also have harmful effects on sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

Particulate matter (PM), also known as particle pollution, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.

Table: Air Quality Monitoring Site Information
Air Quality Monitoring Site Information
Site Name / Location Pollutants Monitored
Bent Creek / South Buncombe County Ozone
Board of Education / Central Buncombe County PM2.5 (2 Monitors)
PM2.5 Continuous Special Purpose Monitor
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College / Central Buncombe County Toxics Special Purpose Monitor

The data we gather is part of the national ambient monitoring program and is used to determine compliance with the national ambient air quality standards ozone and fine particles. The values derived from the Toxics Special Purpose Monitors are being used to determine background concentrations of dozens of toxic pollutants.

Pollen in Asheville

According to Regional Allergy Partners, which has since merged with Allergy Partners of WNC, the geography of our mountainous region makes ours a particularly allergy prone area. Not only are there more species of plants here at a higher density than most other areas, but we have varying elevations with which to contend. Willow and maple trees, for instance, will pollinate early in low, warm river valleys, and several weeks later at high elevations. Since pollen grains travel up to 50 miles in our breezes, we are challenged by them throughout this span of weeks. In other words, we have a double-long season for just about everything here! Allergy Partners of Western North Carolina volunteer to count pollen in Asheville. They are professionals of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and certified to count the pollen.

Indoor Air Quality

With the exception of asbestos removal, WNCRAQA does not regulate indoor air quality. The North Carolina Department of Labor regulates indoor air quality in the workplace.

US EPA has consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health. Children, the elderly, and those in poor health are most at risk for the effects of indoor air quality problems. These groups also spend most of their time indoors.


Mold is a member of the Fungi kingdom. Unlike plants, fungi lack chlorophyll and must rely on the digestion of plants and other organic matter for nourishment. Fungi play an important role in the ecosystem by breaking down and consuming dead organic matter.

Mold is everywhere in the environment, indoors and outdoors. Outdoor mold concentrations are considered to be normal, background mold levels Mold can be a problem when environmental conditions cause it to grow at a high rate indoors.

Mold growth requires: moisture, food, and oxygen.

Building materials including wood, paper, carpet, insulation, and drywall are food sources for mold.

Moisture control is the key to mold control. Introduce water and you have all of the right conditions for mold to grow indoors. If mold is a problem indoors, clean up the mold and get rid of the excess water or moisture. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles & carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced. More information and guidance about mold can be found on the EPA's website.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products.

According to the EPA, old lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today. Harmful exposures to lead dust can occur when lead-based paint is improperly removed from surfaces by dry scraping, sanding, or open-flame burning. Abrasion, friction, and impact of painted surfaces can also produce lead dust. Lead dust indoors can come from outdoor sources, including contaminated soil tracked inside, and from the use of lead in certain indoor activities such as soldering and stained-glass making. Some household items may also contain lead.

In North Carolina, renovation activities that can lead to lead exposure are regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (in lieu of US EPA) through the state's Lead Based Paint Hazard Management Program. Learn more about Lead Paint Abatement, Renovation, Repair & Painting Activities.

The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services coordinates clinical and environmental services aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning.

At the local level, Buncombe County Department of Health has programs to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in children under the age of six.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. The EPA recommends that all homes be tested for radon. There are simple easy to use test kits available at local hardware stores and on the internet. If you decide to do the test yourself, make sure the kit you buy states “meets EPA requirements.”

According to the EPA, secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths in non smokers each year in the U.S. Exposure to secondhand smoke has also been found to increase the risk of heart disease. Developing children exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk of developing ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and more severe asthma attacks.

The North Carolina Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch works to improve the health of North Carolina residents by promoting smoke-free environments and tobacco-free lifestyles.

North Carolina's Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law went into effect January 2, 2010.

Asthma is the most common long-term childhood disease and the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness.


Landlord Tenant Problems Related to Indoor Air Quality and Mold

Landlords are required to maintain rental property in good and safe working order, in compliance with local building codes.

Most mold problems are due to water intrusion or high humidity resulting from inadequate ventilation. Mold itself may not be a code violation, but many causes of water damage that lead to mold may be code violations. Tenants are encouraged to send the landlord a letter regarding problems with their living conditions. If you have water coming into your house (even if the wall is just wet and the water is not actually pouring in), that may be a violation of city and county building codes. If you are a tenant and you live in the city, you can call the Asheville Building Safety Division at office at 259-5764 and request what is called a minimum housing code inspection. More information from City of Asheville is available here.

If you live in Buncombe County, outside of the City of Asheville, you can call the County Fire Marshal's office at 250-6620 and request a minimum housing code inspection.

Other Landlord/Tenant Resources

Locate & Contact

WNC Air Quality

Contact

David Brigman
Director
P: (828) 250-6777
F: (828) 250-6222

*For immediate assistance, please call instead of using email.

Open Burning Hotline
P: (828) 250-6777

WNC Air Quality
52 Coxe Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 2749
Asheville, NC 28802

Asbestos and Demolition Permit Office
30 Valley Street
Asheville, NC 28801

Hours of Operation

Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

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