Clean Air Carolina and the North
Carolina Coastal Federation hosted a meeting on Feb. 7 in WHQR's MC
Erny Gallery to update concerned members of the community on the
current state of air pollution in North Carolina and to reiterate the
results of an independent study on the potential health impacts of
air pollution resulting from Titan Cement's proposed cement plant in
Concerned members from around the
community showed up to discuss the risks posed by Titan Cement and
brainstorm ways to get information to the public.
Sarah Gilliam, coordinator for Stop
Titan Action Network, said New Hanover County is currently ranked No. 1 in the state for total toxic pollutants released. It is
estimated that the county releases 5.6 million pounds of toxins per
year. Beaufort is ranked second, releasing 4 million pounds.
The health impact study was conducted
in 2011 by ICF International, an independent consulting agency, and
was funded by the Education Foundation of America through a grant awarded to the Stop Titan Action Network and prepared for the
Southern Environmental Law Center.
Mike Giles, coastal advocate for the
North Carolina Coastal Federation, said this study differed from the
study conducted by the Division of Air Quality in that it analyzed
health impacts of negative emissions on a local level over a five-month
period from May to September rather than just ensuring it met
state-approved emissions levels.
“Federal air pollution regulations
are not protective of the public health,” said June Blotnik,
executive director of Clean Air Carolina.
The study chose the period of time from
May to September because summer months produce the highest levels of
ground level ozone and more people are in town during those months.
The ICF study concluded that during the five-month period, health problems caused by air pollutants released by
Titan Cement would result in over 50 lost work days, 170 missed
school days, and 150 restricted activity days for people ages 18-65
per month in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick Counties.
The study also concluded that the
pollutants would cause an average of 64 cases of acute respiratory
symptoms and increase the annual burden of health costs in the region
by $13.5 million.
The two major forms of air pollution
that would be emitted from the proposed cement plant would be
ground-level ozone and particulate matter 2.5, or PM 2.5.
While ground-level ozone pollution is a
serious problem, and has been linked to a variety of respiratory
issues, of particular concern among those attending the meeting was
PM 2.5 is composed of fine particles of
dust that are particularly hazardous because, when breathed in, they
are not cleared by nasal passages or normal breathing, and become
incorporated into the vasculature of the lungs. PM 2.5 has been
linked to lung cancer, exacerbation of COPD, chronic lung disease and
“There is no safe level of PM 2.5,”
said Dr. Bob Parr, a local emergency room physician and outspoken
member of MAHA.
Parr said he recently checked the PM
2.5 levels at an air quality monitoring station nearby the location
of the proposed cement plant, and found it to already be at levels
injurious to health.
Currently, the largest contributor to
PM 2.5 pollution in the county is the coal-burning Sutton Power
Plant. Fortunately, the plant will soon be converting to natural gas.
“When the Sutton Power Plant
converts to natural gas, 95 percent of those emissions will be cut
out,” Parr said. “Once that happens, our air quality without
Titan is rosy. Our air quality with Titan is messy.”
Titan was issued an air quality permit
by the DAQ in September 2009. An appeal is currently pending.