Pittsburgh's Smoke-Filled Past Reaches Legendary Level
Vellucci, Justin, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh's smoke might be as legendary as its steel.
The dark clouds that cloaked the city were so thick during World War II that streetlights were turned on during the day. In a town dubbed "hell with the lid off," businessmen brought two shirts to work -- one for the morning and another to replace the shirt air pollution would ruin before the evening commute.
"It's very difficult to overcome that (smoky city) label," said Roger Westman, a former manager of Allegheny County's air pollution control program. "Today, I love to bring people to Pittsburgh, drive through the tunnel and show them Downtown on a nice, sunny day."
Pittsburgh's relationship with smoke started in the early 1800s, when residents used coal as cheap fuel, said Joel Tarr, a Carnegie Mellon University history and policy professor. By the 1850s, railroads contributed to the gloomy smog. Manufacturing, industries built on coal and, later, automobile traffic followed suit.
In the 1920s, when area mills were churning, 165.8 tons of dust - - particles and residue in the air -- fell per square mile each month, county Health Department spokesman Guillermo Cole said. …