Fighting Fine Particulate Pollution On NC Beaches

BY ON June 26, 2012

Little girl picking up cigarette butts on a beach

This post was written by Sarah Gilliam, Coordinator for the Stop Titan Action Network:

Never doubt the potential of a determined individual. This can certainly be said about one mom living in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Danielle Richardet and her three children–Chase, Claire and Henry–walk the beach and pick up cigarette butts, which are the most littered items in the world. “Ordinary, regular people are the ones that make the biggest differences in the world, every single day,” says Danielle Richardet who has picked up over 46,000 cigarette butts off our beaches. Cigarettes pose significant threats to marine animals and have lasting implications to our waterways and ocean.

“Cigarette filters are made from a material called cellulose acetate, [which are] plastic fibers that never biodegrade. The filters photodegrade into smaller pieces but cellulose acetate never disappears. Instead, it becomes diluted in our environment becoming part of our environment,” said Danielle in an article posted on

Danielle Richardet

Danielle and her family’s daily actions are working towards positive change. With help from Surfrider’s Cape Fear Chapter, residents of Wrightsville Beach are pushing local leaders to make Wrightsville Beach the first ‘smoke-free’ beach in North Carolina.

“The residents of Wrightsville Beach are very concerned about this litter issue, as well as air quality concerns from second hand smoke,” said Ethan Crouch, local organizer with the Cape Fear Chapter of Surfrider. “Through the power of this community, we were able to get this issue on November’s ballot and now the citizens can vote on the future of our beaches.”

A clean beach but dirty air?

North Carolina recently made it illegal to smoke in public because of the known toxic health impacts of second hand smoke, namely fine particulate matter. Kelly Stryker, also a mother of three, has been active in the fight against Titan Cement for over four years now. Kelly recently crunched some numbers and discovered that Titan’s smokestack will emit the same amount of fine particulate matter as if every man, woman and child in New Hanover County (all 190,000) smoked 7 packs of cigarettes a day.

“Our community can’t get where we need to in regards to air quality by taking one step forward and one step back,” says Kelly. “Reducing second hand smoke from cigarettes is a big step forward for our local air and water quality, especially to sensitive groups like children. Titan Cement is a big step back and our children need us to keep fighting to make our community clean and safe, one step at a time.”

Just how much particulate matter was that again? Titan was recently permitted by N.C. Division of Air Quality to emit 360 tons of particulate matter per year. That’s almost a ton (2000 pounds) per day, every day for the next 50+ years Titan hopes to operate in this region. Particulate matter can lead to several human health issues like increased respiratory symptoms and cardiovascular diseases.

We are thankful for clean beaches but we also deserve clean air.


TOPICS: Activism, Asthma, Cancer, Cement, North Carolina