Winthrop Chemistry Department Awarded Contract with North Carolina Division of Air Quality (9/3/00)

On August 29, 2000, Winthrop University signed a $24,676 contract with the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (NC DAQ) to provide research analytical support for the hydrocarbon sampling and analysis program.  The work with the Division of Air Quality will support chemistry student internships to evaluate hydrocarbon fingerprints and trends from 10-20 sampling locations using data collected over the past five years.  It is anticipated that 7-10 chemistry students will be involved in various aspects of the project. The funding will allow the purchase of necessary software, collaborative travel, conference presentations as well as student internships.  The project will be directed by Dr. Pat Owens, Professor of Chemistry at Winthrop University.  Dr. Owens is currently Vice-Chair of the Mecklenburg County Environmental Protection Commission and a member of the air quality team for the Voices and Choices regional smart growth initiative.

Hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides are the two primary precursors for summertime ozone production.  While state and federal agencies have focused recent efforts on controlling nitrogen oxides, there is less known about the effect of hydrocarbon concentrations on ozone production. A recent study published by Sonoma Technology Inc. provides evidence that ozone production in this region may be driven more by hydrocarbons than by nitrogen oxides.

In a report issued by the American Lung Association in June 2000, the Rock Hill-Charlotte-Gastonia metropolitan area was identified as the 8th worst U.S. urban region for summertime production of ground-level ozone.  Ozone adversely affects respiratory health.  In the Carolinas, a large number of emergency room visits for respiratory difficulties are directly attributable to high ozone levels that occur during the summer.  In April, 2000, the Charlotte Observer identified summertime ozone production as the most critical environmental issue facing the Central Carolinas region.  Summertime ozone levels have significantly risen over the past five years.  In a research presentation by Winthrop chemistry student Jenny Perry to the NC DAQ last August, the rise in ozone production was correlated with increases in traffic and growth in the region. Jenny also found that, over the past decade in this region, there has been surprisingly little difference in summertime ozone weekday/weekend levels.