Press Release

New Report Gets NC Air Quality Wrong

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RALEIGH — A new report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project is garnering attention from policymakers and the news media despite the fact that it “clearly misleads the public” said John Locke Foundation Vice President Roy Cordato. “The study exaggerates the number of high ozone days in North Carolina and alleges a link between high ozone and asthma rates that does not exist.”

The STPP report, which takes aim at the Bush administration’s environmental policies and its “Clear Skies Initiative” to update the Clean Air Act, looks at air quality and asthma data on a state-to-state basis. Within each state it further breaks down this data by metropolitan area — and in doing so uses the technique adopted by other interest groups such as the American Lung Association. If one small town or village within a metro area registers high ozone on a given day, it is counted against the entire metro area.

For example, if the only place in the Triangle to register high ozone on a given day is the small town of Fuquay-Varina, the entire metropolitan area — including Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill — is considered to have a high ozone day. Using this methodology STPP claims that for the years 1998 to 2002 Charlotte, the Triangle, and the Triad averaged 36, 20, and 24 high ozone days respectively per year.

But Cordato, vice president for research at the Locke Foundation, notes that this practice results in dramatic overstatements of public exposure to dangerous levels of ozone. “In reality, the average number of high ozone days for individual locations in these areas during this period were only 13, 10, and 8,” he said. “The STPP report exaggerates the exposure by between 100 and 200 percent.”

The study then goes on to list the percentage of adults diagnosed with asthma in nine of the state’s metropolitan areas, suggesting that these are related to the number of high ozone days. But Cordato actually compared the STPP’s own data on asthma and ozone and came to a startlingly different conclusion. “When the asthma data are compared to the number of high ozone days in each of the metropolitan areas, we discover a strong negative relationship,” he says. “That is, STPP’s higher asthma rates are consistently associated with cleaner, not dirtier air. This suggests that something other than pollution is responsible for the problem of high asthma rates.”

The pattern of misrepresentation has by now grown familiar, Cordato says.

“This most recent report is simply one more in a long line of studies produced by left-wing environmental groups, exaggerating the data and suggesting links to diseases that they never prove,” he concludes. “And all this flies in the face of data published by the EPA in June of 2003 showing reductions in all air pollutants including ozone, acid rain, carbon monoxide, and others over the last 20 years.”

Dr. Cordato has written extensively on ozone pollution and environmental trends over the years, including a recent report available online. For more information about the Surface Transportation Policy Project and the real story on North Carolina’s environment, call Cordato at 919-828-3876.


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About John Locke Foundation

We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.