Thursday, February 21, 2013 — RALEIGH – All air quality monitors in North Carolina now comply with the new, more stringent standard for sulfur dioxide, or SO2, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted for the noxious gas in 2010, according to a release from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The EPA adopted a stricter one-hour standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) for sulfur dioxide in June 2010 due to concerns about its effects on public health and the environment. One of the first regulated air pollutants, SO2 is harmful to the respiratory system, particularly among those with asthma and other respiratory problems. It also can damage buildings, trees and other vegetation.
When EPA adopted the new standard, North Carolina had an air quality monitor near Wilmington in New Hanover County with SO2 levels that exceeded the limit. Since then, the N.C. Division of Air Quality, or DAQ, has worked with local governments and industries to reduce SO2 emissions, and measured levels have steadily declined over the past three years.
“This is a great example of the Division of Air Quality working with local governments and businesses to address a problem with serious economic and environmental implications,” said John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“Division staff took a proactive approach to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions in the Wilmington area, thus protecting public health and the environment while avoiding more burdensome federal permitting requirements for local industries.”
The EPA recently notified the state that its review of air quality monitoring data found no violations of the 2010 SO2 standard in any areas in North Carolina. As a result, the EPA announced it would not designate any SO2 non-attainment areas in North Carolina; non-attainment is the agency’s term for areas not complying with an air quality standard.