Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Unhealthy Air Should Dissipate Today with Arrival of Cold Front

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Unhealthy Air Should Dissipate Today with Arrival of Cold Front

Article excerpt

Unhealthy air quality readings over the past four days - a phenomenon that an Allegheny County Health Department official termed "very unusual" - should end Tuesday in Western Pennsylvania as a cold front arrives.

Multiple, strong temperature inversions that began Friday have caused the unhealthy readings, recorded in a large area from Ohio to the East Coast.

Allegheny County experienced the inversions, which trapped colder air beneath a warmer air mass and allowed pollution concentrations to build on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings, said Jim Kelly, the county health department's deputy director for environmental health.

"This is very unusual and seems to have impacted a large region, including western Ohio and central and eastern Pennsylvania," Mr. Kelly said. "Weather applications on cell phones are and were reporting unhealthy air in regions as disperse as Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia."

As a result of the inversions, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection declared a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day for unhealthy levels of fine particulates Monday afternoon for Allegheny and six other southwestern counties plus 13 southeastern counties.

On "orange" air quality action days, young children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis are advised to limit outdoor activities.

The almost invisible airborne particulates are emitted by vehicles, industries, power plants and other facilities that burn fossil fuels, Mr. Kelly said.

He noted that there were no sulfur dioxide exceedances during the period. Sulfur dioxide concentrations spiked above federal health standards six times after a Christmas Eve fire damaged coke gas desulfurization equipment at U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works.

Although no sulfur dioxide exceedances have occurred since Jan. …

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