According to a study at N.C. State University, tailgating leads to poor air quality, which can have negative health and environmental effects.
Researchers measured air quality in popular tailgating locations before and after N.C. State football games during the 2015 season.
They found air quality was often poor near charcoal grills, gasoline-powered generators and running vehicles, said Chris Frey, an N.C. State professor at the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering who co-authored the study.
The study also found air quality in tailgating areas could remain affected into the next morning.
Poor air quality was also detected in slow traffic areas as people were leaving the game, said Jonathan Casper, a N.C. State professor at the College of Natural Resources who also co-authored the study.
“The biggest, or at least most alarming, figures related to the air associated particularly to the stadium lots after the game,” he said. “When everyone leaves at pretty much the same time, they start their cars, they’re stuck in traffic. We found some extremely high pollutant levels there that basically indicated very poor air quality.”
Researchers identified some ways fans can have a safer game-day experience.
“Once you do get in your car, make sure that you’re shut and you have your ventilation closed so at least you’re filtering out some of the air associated with that,” Casper said.
UNC has guidelines in place to decrease the amount of air pollution caused by pre-game activities.
According to the UNC Department of Athletics’ tailgating policy, heat-producing devices such as smokers are not allowed inside parking decks or buildings, and generators are prohibited in enclosed areas, near ventilation ducts or inside parking decks.
However, the policy mostly focuses on fire safety and not on the effects of tailgating on air quality.
Frey said people hosting tailgates have the most influence when it comes to air quality, especially when choosing what kinds of grills or generators can be used.
Hannah Thomas, a UNC junior from Raleigh, said learning more about the study could change how she tailgates.
“I’m very environmentally friendly, so that would definitely play into (my actions),” she said.
While the study better quantified the negative effects of tailgating, Casper said he does not warn against the practice as a whole.
“The overall conclusion is it’s not bad or unhealthy to tailgate as long as you’re not standing next to the big polluters when it comes to things like that,” he said. “So it’s just being cognizant of where you are standing, if you have health problems especially.”