Western PA Gets Failing Grade for Air Quality

Industry, climate contribute to pollution levels and serious health risks.

The air quality in Western Pennsylvania just received an "F" rating. The failing grade was handed out in the American Lung Association's 20th Annual State of the Air Report.

"Residents of Pittsburgh and the metro area should be aware that we're breathing unhealthy air, driven by local emissions, upwind sources, and extreme heat as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk," said Kevin Stewart, the ALA's director of environmental health for advocacy and public policy told the Post-Gazette .

The region ranked 10th in the nation in daily particle pollution and seventh in year-round particle pollution. Allegheny County got an "F" for Ozone levels, which contribute heavily to unhealthy smog.

Stewart says the pollution levels are due in part to the region's industry, local river valleys, and rising global temperatures.

According to the ALA, dangerous levels of ozone and particle pollution can contribute to developmental harm in children and reproductive harm in adults. Additionally, pollution can lead to higher cancer rates, cardiovascular disease, and asthma.

You can read more of the studies results, and learn about the health risks of pollution by clicking here .

U.S. Steel has been fined more than $2 million for emissions at the Clairton Coke Works. Image courtesy GASP.Pgh.org.

Dr. Karen Hacker. director of the Allegheny County Health Department, told the Post-Gazette that the department will continue to ramp up enforcement efforts to hold polluters responsible. In the past year, the ACHD has fined U.S. Steel more than $2 million for emissions violations at the Clairton Coke Works facility .

"We all want and deserve clean air, and we will continue to use all of our tools to improve the air that we all breathe," Dr. Hacker said. "But we cannot do this alone, and we call upon industry leaders, such as U.S. Steel, to address all non-compliance issues and improve our air quality."

Feature image courtesy Jaime Casap.

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