Springtime in North Carolina is absolutely beautiful, and thanks to my average daily commute to work, I spend a lot of time noticing the beautiful verdant lawns, azaleas and dogwood trees as I travel the highways.  

Some days, as I take a walk during my breaks, I deeply inhale and savor the clean air, sometimes taking a moment to thank God for my surroundings, and other times just existing and taking it all for granted; not on purpose, but it is just typical for me, until a few days ago.

Most Sunday mornings are pretty routine for me. I sleep a little late, read for about 45 minutes, and while I am cooking breakfast and preparing for church, I look forward to tuning in to CBS Sunday Morning. I have watched this show regularly since the days of Charles Kuralt, who felt more like a high school teacher or college professor than news reporter.  

Even during the early ’90s when I took a three-year television sabbatical, missing CBS Sunday Morning and regular episodes of Martin was grueling, but I moved forward.

And considering all of those years of viewership, a story that I saw on the April 21 broadcast of CBS Sunday Morning was one that I simply can’t stop thinking about. It was a motivating, upbeat story about a hot new boy group, BTS, from Seoul, South Korea, and how their hit song, “Boy With Luv,” among other songs, is being recognized by GenZers, (people between the ages of 4-24) throughout South Korea and now America.

The group was pretty cool, and I am happy for their success, although I was much more impressed by the performance a few weeks ago from Durand Jones and the Indications, but I digress.

The CBS reporter took viewers into the group’s rehearsals, showed footage from a few performances and interviewed the group members about their day-to-day lives, and while they traveled around the city, I noticed members of the boy group wore facial masks because of the chronic air pollution in South Korea and along the entire Korean Peninsula.

Since I am completely uneducated about South Korea and the challenges they face, I won’t try to explain their plight with air pollution, but just as a human being, my heart went out to the citizens of South Korea thinking about how dreadful it must be to be deprived from one of the most simple rights of life, to breathe clean air.  

According to a report from Al Jazeera.com, “Air pollution leads to seven million premature deaths a year around the world, including 600,000 among children.” David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, stated in the Al Jazeera article, “To put that figure in context, that’s more deaths every year than the combined total of war, murder, tuberculosis, HIV, AIDS and malaria.”

When I researched air quality in North Carolina, cleanaircarolina.org cites some ongoing air quality issues contributed by:

- Climate change – “greenhouse gases” which are increased in the coastal and low-lying areas of eastern North Carolina.  

- Particle pollution – Is made up of such pollutants as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke; derived from construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.

- Ozone pollution – This pollution is created by chemical reactions; and some major sources are motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents. Ground level ozone can harmfully affect sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

I am not comparing North Carolina’s air-quality issues with South Korea’s by any means; however, air pollution can cause health issues regardless. In North Carolina some respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, challenges during pregnancy, and deaths have been linked to impacts from air pollution. And even though one would think we all breathe the same air, we don’t. Some geographical areas are at a greater risk for poorer air quality than others.

Awareness is key! The Warren Record is located in a very small distribution market. However, it is an extremely effective and informative tool for those who read. I consider it a privilege to share information with our readers and to bring awareness to everyday issues that sometimes go unnoticed.

So stop, relax, and be intentional and mindful upon taking your next breath; even though we view breathing clean air as a human right…it is not.

T. A. Jones is a contributor to The Warren Record and author of “A Summer with No Ice Cream.” To reach her, email terryalstonjones@gmail.com.