CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Charlotte area is the only area in North Carolina where the air quality is below federal standards.
Doctors are starting to see otherwise healthy patients develop breathing issues.
Sherry Spinner developed severe asthma after moving to Charlotte six years ago, “I can be fine walking down the street and if a car comes by and smoke comes from the tail pipe or even the smell of diesel- it can cause my chest to feel like it's tightening up.”
She said she’s never smoked, and never had to avoid the outdoors until now, "I've ended up in the hospital three times last year.”
The American Lung Association ranked Charlotte the 19th most polluted area in America when it comes to ozone.
New York is one spot above Charlotte tied at 17 with Louisville. Philadelphia has the 20th spot.
Pittsburgh is even cleaner at No. 24.
Dr. Selwyn Spangenthal, a pulmonologist at the Charlotte Lung and Health Center said, “People who never have respiratory problems, and move to Charlotte often come down with asthma or something similar to that.”
Spangenthal said with spring now here, allergy sufferers will suffer even more here in Charlotte. Add pollen to pollution, and breathing becomes even harder to do.
Last year, Mecklenburg County posted its lowest pollution levels on record.
The county is still 2.5 percent over the federal standard.
Megan Green who works with Mecklenburg County Air Quality Control says, "Charlotte is actually the only urban area in North Carolina that does not meet the federal ozone standard right now."
The federal government’s pollution level scale rates areas as severe, moderate, and marginal.
Charlotte is in the marginal category.
Mecklenburg County closely regulates industry pollution emissions.
The county also offers financial incentives to upgrade aging diesel equipment. This spring, the county hopes to offer another opportunity for local construction-equipment owners to upgrade their equipment.
Green says in 2012, 48 percent of county pollution was caused by vehicles. Thirty-nine percent was due to equipment. Two percent were industrial businesses. Eleven percent was “other,” such as gas stations.
It's not just who is on the road that creates this pollution. It's also where the roads are.
Charlotte sits at the foot of a mountain.
Warm air rises, trapping cooler air and smog closer to the ground.
The federal government has given all cities that fall under the “marginal category”-- which includes Charlotte, until 2015 to meet federal pollution standards.
The county said it expects to meet that deadline, but if it doesn't, it can ask for an extension.
Click here for information on the upcoming county funding offer to local construction equipment owners.
Click here for the “most polluted cities” list from the American Lung Association.