Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Time to Clear the Year Allegheny County Must Address Its Polluted Aid

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Time to Clear the Year Allegheny County Must Address Its Polluted Aid

Article excerpt

Allegheny County's polluted air has been in the news lately, with strings of air-quality action days forcing people to stay inside and reports detailing our region's placement on Top 10 dirty-air lists, which make our business and tourism leaders cringe. A recent PennEnvironment analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data found the Pittsburgh metro area had the fourth-highest number of bad-air days in 2016 among large U.S. cities. The American Lung Association's 2018 State of the Air report gave the Pittsburgh metro area straight F's for ozone, daily particulate matter and long-term particulate matter levels. After decades of steady improvement, particle pollution went up in Allegheny County for the first time in more than 10 years.

Dirty air takes a toll on our health. A report by the University of Pittsburgh found that Allegheny County is in the top 2 percent of counties nationwide for cancer risk from air pollution. Our children in some Pittsburgh schools experience asthma at a rate more than double the national average, and 60 percent of kids with asthma in Allegheny County do not have it under control. An ocean of research details many other health impacts from toxic air, but these two alone should be enough to inspire action.

Across Pennsylvania, the largest share of fine-particle pollution comes from industrial sources, such as coal-fired power plants and coke works. PennEnvironment's Toxic Ten report shows that 70 percent of the toxic industrial air pollution in Allegheny County comes from only 10 sources.

The Allegheny County Health Department is authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to issue permits for these facilities to protect public health and limit the amount of pollution they are allowed to put in our air. The health department is also charged with monitoring pollution from industry and initiating enforcement action when polluters violate their permits and break the law. …

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