Air Pollution:

Air Quality and Respiratory Problems in and Near the Great Smoky Mountains

GAO-01-658: Published: May 25, 2001. Publicly Released: May 25, 2001.

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John B. Stephenson
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Concerns have been growing about the air quality, visibility, and respiratory illnesses around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. This report analyzes recent trends in and contributing factors to (1) visibility impairments, (2) ground-level ozone, and (3) respiratory illnesses. This report also examines the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) plans to reduce its emission of regulated pollutants from generating electricity. Visibility impairments and ozone are largely attributable to the following three types of emissions: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds. The counties that border the park generally have slightly higher mortality rates from two types of respiratory illness. The three types of emissions interact in the atmosphere to form ozone gas and sulfate particles, which are linked to respiratory illnesses. In response to federal laws and other factors, TVA is making substantial environment-related investments and expects to reduce its annual emissions of sulfur dioxide by 40 percent and its "ozone-season"' emissions of nitrogen oxides by 70 percent between 1999 and 2005.

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