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Columbia Business Monthly

The Business Narrative: State of the Air

Apr 25, 2024 09:49AM ● By Donna Walker

New Report: Columbia Achieves Second Best Result for Ozone Smog; Particle Pollution Increases Slightly

The Columbia metro area was named 116th most polluted in the nation for ozone pollution, according to the American Lung Association’s 2024 “State of the Air” report, which was released April 24, 2024.


Officials said this was a marked improvement from last year’s ranking of 75th worst for ozone pollution.


While the metro area received a passing grade for year-round average level of particle pollution, it fell in ranking from 129th worst in the nation to 123rd worst.


Nationally, the report found that more than 131 million people, or nearly four in 10 people, in the U.S. live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. 


The Lung Association’s 25th annual “State of the Air” report grades exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution and short-term spikes in particle pollution over a three-year period.


This year’s report includes air quality data from 2020-2022 and is updated to reflect the new annual particle pollution standard that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized in February.


“In the 25 years that the American Lung Association has been doing our ‘State of the Air’ report, we have seen incredible improvement in the nation’s air quality. Unfortunately, more than 131 million people still live in places with unhealthy levels of air pollution, and Columbia still has work to do,” said Danna Thompson, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in South Carolina.


Thompson added, “Climate change is making air pollution more likely to form and more difficult to clean up. So, there are actions we can and must take to improve air quality, including investing in statewide electric vehicle infrastructure and calling on EPA to set long-overdue stronger national limits on ozone pollution.”


The “State of the Air” report looked at levels of ozone “smog,” the air pollutant affecting the largest number of people in the United States.


The Columbia metro area ranked 116th worst in the nation for ozone pollution. The ranking was based on the area’s worst county’s average number of unhealthy days —0.3 days per year, a “B” grade, in Richland county.


This was better than the area's ranking in last year's report of 75th worst, with one day per year, a “C” grade. 


The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly.


The Columbia metro area ranked 105th worst in the nation for short-term particle pollution. The ranking was based on the worst county’s average number of unhealthy days — 0.7 days per year, a “B” grade, in Lexington County.


This was better than the area's ranking in last year's report of 100th worst, with 0.7 days per year, a “B” grade. 


For the year-round average level of particle pollution, the area’s worst county, Lexington, received a passing grade for pollution levels below the federal standard that was recently updated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.


The Columbia metro area ranked 123rd worst in the nation. This was worse than the area's ranking in last year's report of 129th worst in the nation.


In addition to the Columbia metro area, other notable findings across South Carolina include:


The Charleston metro area ranked among the cleanest cities in the nation for ozone pollution for the fifth time ever.


The “State of the Air” report found that nationally, more than 131 million people live in an area that received a failing grade for at least one measure of air pollution, and 43.9 million people live in areas with failing grades for all three measures.


In the three years covered by the report, individuals in the U.S. experienced the highest number of days when particle pollution reached “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” levels in the history of reporting the “State of the Air.”


Officials said communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air and are also more likely to be living with one or more chronic conditions that make them more vulnerable to air pollution, including asthma, diabetes and heart disease.


The report found that a person of color in the U.S. is more than twice as likely as a white individual to live in a community with a failing grade on all three pollution measures.


Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, preterm births and impaired cognitive functioning later in life.


Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.


This legislative session the Lung Association expressed support for House Bill 3824, which allows electric vehicle charging stations to be eligible for existing tax credits.


Officials said that because the transportation sector is a leading source of air pollution and carbon pollution, growing South Carolina’s electric vehicle infrastructure is critical to health today and tomorrow.


EPA recently finalized new air pollution rules that will help clean up particle pollution and address climate change.


Now, the Lung Association is urging EPA to set long overdue stronger national limits on ozone pollution.


Officials said stronger limits would help people protect themselves and drive cleanup of polluting sources across the country.


See the full report at

Tidelands Health Receives Grant to Help Uninsured, Underinsured Access Health Care

Tidelands Health’s efforts to help uninsured and underinsured residents access needed health care received a financial boost from a North Carolina foundation striving to improve the human condition.


The Leon Levine Foundation awarded a multi-year grant totaling $225,000 to support the health system’s Tidelands Community Care Network, a collaborative of agencies dedicated to coordinating care resources for residents in Horry and Georgetown counties who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured.


“The Leon Levine Foundation’s ongoing support of Tidelands Community Care Network helps us make a difference in the lives of our neighbors,” said Kelly Thompkins, senior director of community health resources at Tidelands Health.


Thompkins added, “Through this generous grant, our network will be able to reach even more residents who need assistance in accessing medical care and finding other support to help improve their overall health.”


Tidelands Health, in partnership with AccessHealth SC and The Duke Endowment, created Tidelands Community Care Network in 2012 to break down barriers to medical care for uninsured and underinsured adults.


Since its inception, Tidelands Community Care Network has served nearly 8,600 individuals living in Horry and Georgetown counties by connecting them with primary care, specialty care, affordable medication, behavioral health care, food and housing support.


The network also offers health education resources and programs such as a diabetes prevention program to help people live better lives through better health.


With nearly 50 partner agencies and organizations, Tidelands Community Care Network helps remove barriers such as lack of transportation to needed care.


One of the network’s greatest community benefits is its role as a facilitator, helping foster partnerships and increase cross-sector collaboration.


Officials say the result is stronger links within the community that lead to integrated care and better health outcomes.


“The Leon Levine Foundation is proud to continue its support for Tidelands Community Care Network. This specialized resource is essential for the people of Horry and Georgetown counties to be connected with quality care close to the communities where they live and work,” said Tom Lawrence, president and CEO of The Leon Levine Foundation.


Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, The Leon Levine Foundation was created in 1980 by the founder and chairman emeritus of Family Dollar Stores Inc. and supports programs and organizations that improve the human condition.


Health care and human services are two key areas the foundation supports through investments in nonprofits across the Carolinas with strong leadership and a track record of success.

SCDNR Temporarily Closes Deveaux Bank Seabird Sanctuary to Protect Nesting Birds

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has temporarily closed parts of Deveaux Bank Seabird Sanctuary to protect coastal birds during the nesting season.


The closure occurs annually and is based on bird activity and suitable nesting habitat at the site.


Thousands of brown pelicans have begun nesting on the island, which sits at the mouth of the North Edisto River.


In 2023, Deveaux Bank hosted more than 3,000 pelican nests, which accounted for three-quarters of South Carolina’s nesting pelican population and made it the largest pelican colony on the Atlantic coast.


This week, SCDNR biologists also observed royal, sandwich, least and gull-billed terns and black skimmers flying low over the island, scouting for a stretch of sand to form their nesting colonies.


Deveaux Bank often supports more nesting terns and skimmers than any other site in South Carolina, making it one of the most important islands in the region for seabird survival.


Seabirds nest on remote beaches that have little vegetation and lay their eggs directly on the sand during spring and summer months from April to July (or to October for brown pelicans).


Seabirds use every part of Deveaux Bank, including the intertidal zone. Officials say the wet sandy beaches are essential for successful reproduction and migration, as birds use them for courtship, resting and raising chicks.


In addition to its nesting birds, Deveaux Bank also hosts tens of thousands of declining migratory shorebirds, including red knots, piping plovers and whimbrels, in need of rest and food.


Officials say quiet beaches that are free of predators and disturbance are essential to their survival during long journeys to and from their nesting grounds. Shorebirds feed in the intertidal sandy and muddy shoals on invertebrates such as marine worms, clams and horseshoe crab eggs.


Due to erosion and overwash caused by storms in 2023, much of Deveaux Bank is now underwater from mid-tide to high tide.


Because of Deveaux Bank’s regional importance to many birds of high conservation concern, all of the island, including intertidal shoals, is closed during the nesting season except for the southwest tip of the island nearest Edisto Island.


In addition, no dogs are allowed on any part of the property at any time.


SCDNR officials have posted signs on the high ground of the island indicating closed areas.


Officials say the interior, intertidal sandflats aren’t able to support signage, but these areas also remain closed to all landing and foot traffic, as they serve as critical feeding and roosting areas for a wide variety of birds.


Officials ask the public to abide by the closures shown on the map and report any violations to the SCDNR Law Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-922-5431. Failure to comply can result in fines up to $465 and 30 days in jail (code 50-11-860).


For more information about SCDNR Seabird Sanctuaries, go to SCDNR - Coastal Birds in South Carolina - Seabird Sanctuaries.

Did a Celebrity Really Endorse THAT? Maybe Not

Before you spend money on that celebrity-endorsed premium cookware, weight loss product, or can’t-miss money-making opportunity, the Federal Trade Commission urges you to pause and take a breath.


Are you sure a celebrity or influencer is really endorsing that product or program?


Maybe a scammer is behind that online ad. Scammers are using fake celebrity and influencer testimonials and endorsements — complete with doctored video and audio that seems like the real thing — to generate buzz and profits.


“But it looks and sounds real, so it must be true,” right? Not so much. The technology to make fake endorsement videos is improving all the time, according to FTC officials.


They say your best bet is to do some research on your own. Before you click and buy, the officials offer this advice:


Check out that celebrity or influencer testimonial. Search online using their name, the name of the company or product, and words like “scam” or “fake.” See what others are saying.


Resist pressure to commit quickly. Scammers want you to act fast, and the ad might say it’s a limited time deal. But it’s not true. They just don’t want you to do any research or think it through.


Ask your health care professional about dietary supplements. The government doesn’t review or evaluate supplements for safety or effectiveness before they’re put on the market.


Know the investment risk. If anyone says you can earn a lot of money on an investment with little or no risk, don’t buy into the hype. Investments always involve risk — there are no guaranteed returns.


Go to, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website, for more advice on investing and avoiding fraud.


Have you spotted a bogus celebrity endorsement? Report it to the FTC

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