Prove your humanity

Allegheny County wants to improve indoor air quality at child care centers located in communities disproportionately harmed by pollution and industry.

The $462,000 pilot is funded through the Allegheny County Health Department’s COVID-19 Emergency Action Fund and a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The engineering firm Stantec will evaluate each child care center’s ventilation for improvements. An Allegheny County spokeswoman said grant funding will pay for at least some updates.

All 20 participating child care facilities serve what are known as environmental justice communities. These are areas disproportionately harmed by pollution and industry — they also tend to be lower-income and have larger minority populations.

Then, over the course of one year, kids attending these centers will be tracked for the number of days they’re absent due to respiratory viruses, such as the flu — or chronic illnesses, including asthma.

Nearly half of the child care centers are located in the Mon Valley, which has some of the worst air quality in Allegheny County due to topography and the presence of industrial sources of fine particulate matter. This includes the U.S. Steel plant in Clairton, which is North America’s largest producer of coke — a high-carbon fuel used to make steel.