Clearing The Air 1.0

Clearing the Air 1.0

February, 2021

The headlines can hardly be avoided.

“Pittsburgh’s air quality is among the worst in the nation, study says.

“Pittsburgh region’s air pollution worsening, report says.”

“Pittsburgh’s air quality gets failing grade – again.”

But does reality justify the headlines? A Pittsburgh Work Together analysis of decades of data from the US Environmental Protection Agency as well as the studies and data that environmental activists use to justify their claims concludes:

  • The Pittsburgh region suffered from relatively poor air quality in the not-so-distant past.
  • The region has made tremendous strides in air quality, improving faster than most big-city regions in the country over the past decade.
  • Environmental activists stretch their claims beyond what the data supports.
  • The Pittsburgh region is like a C+ student on air quality — better than some areas, worse than others, and fairly typical for one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas.

There is still further work that can be done to improve air quality in the region. And there may be communities where the air quality tends to be worse than the region’s typical conditions.

But the overriding civic discussion has been one that assumes the overall air quality in the Pittsburgh region is exceptionally poor and unique to this area. That’s not the case.

Data show the Pittsburgh region scores better than the Seattle area for average 24-hour PM2.5 peak levels. And while Pittsburgh’s levels have have dropped over the past decade, Seattle’s average 24-hour PM2.5 peak level has increased.

In the 2020 report Trouble in the Air, PennEnvironment highlighted the one-third of Americans who “regularly breathe polluted air that increases their risk of premature death, and can also trigger asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.” The Pittsburgh region did not make that list.

When the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked the country’s 100 largest metro regions for asthma problems, it placed the Pittsburgh region at #54, between two-high risk corridors in the Midwest and along the East Coast.


Read the full report, Clearing the Air, here

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Jeff Nobers | Executive Director |
Ken Zapiniski | Director of Research and Public Policy |
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