In its yearly “State of the Air” report, the American Lung Association gave Allegheny County a failing grade for all levels of air pollution they look at — ozone, daily particulate matter levels, and long-term particulate matter levels.
The Greater Pittsburgh region is tied with Lancaster, Pa. as the eighth-worst metro area in the country for year-round particle pollution. Particle pollution includes the chemicals in exhaust and the byproducts from burning wood and trash, which can irritate the lungs.
The metro area is also among the 10 worst for daily spikes in particulates. These small particles are known to be particularly harmful for people with asthma and lung cancer.
“Allegheny County is one of only 10 counties across the country that gets straight F’s for all the measures of air pollution we look at,” Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health for the Mid-Atlantic American Lung Association said. “And the only county outside of California to do so.”
Some markers have improved — the greater Pittsburgh region had fewer days with unhealthy levels of ozone for the third year in a row, but is still at a failing grade.
“Not only does air quality continue to fail in our report, but it’s simply unacceptable that anyone in Allegheny County is exposed to the worst air pollution levels east of California,” Stewart said.
According to the report, more than 40 percent of U.S. residents live in counties that have unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.
The Allegheny County Health Department said in a statement, “The Allegheny County Health Department has strengthened our enforcement actions, doing more than we ever have, but we need to – and will – strengthen them further.”
In 2015, PennEnvironment issued a report showing that 70 percent of Pittsburgh’s air pollution comes from just 10 industrial sites. Their newly updated “Toxic Ten” website allows people to see how close they live to the worst polluters.
With reporting from Andy Kubis