Clearing The Air 3.0

Executive Summary

November 2022


Read the full report here: Clearing The Air 3.0 report

Clearing The Air 1.0 used 2019 EPA data and research by others to dispel the myth that the air in the Pittsburgh region is among the worst in the country. That initial report found that our air is fairly typical of that found in big-city regions around the country. This report, Clearing The Air 3.0, uses 2021 EPA data to continue our monitoring of the region’s air quality, which remains better than in some places and worse than in others.

Findings in this report include:

  • Average levels of particulate matter (PM2.5) across the United States have risen above pre-pandemic levels and are now at levels not seen since 2015. The rise has caught experts off guard, and there appears to be no easy explanation for the jump.
  • Average PM2.5 levels are up in Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh region, though not by quite as much as seen in other parts of the country. Significantly, the PM2.5 levels measured at the Liberty Borough air monitor, the last in the region to meet EPA standards, have continued to decline and remain below pre-pandemic levels.
  • Allegheny County and the entire region met all EPA Clean Air standards in 2021 for the first time ever.
  • The Pittsburgh region scored worse for PM2.5 levels than most big-city regions but was better than places including Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Denver for peak daily levels and San Diego, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati for its annual average.

Top 50 Metro Areas*: 2021 PM 2.5 24-hour Peak Levels

  • The Pittsburgh region scored better than most big-city regions for ozone, including Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, and Nashville.
  • The region’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels continue to decline and met EPA standards in 2021 for the first time ever.

This is not to say we should be content. 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 we need to act based on facts, not fear or feelings. Misunderstanding the nature of the region’s air quality can lead people to believe that they live in a uniquely bad community and are putting their health at risk unnecessarily. It can send an inaccurate message to people and companies considering living or investing in the region. And mischaracterizing the problem puts pressure on regulators and public officials to solve “problems” that some people imagine exist rather than those that actually do.

Read the full report here: Clearing The Air 3.0

Read Clearing the Air 2.0 here: Clearing The Air 2.0

Read Clearing The Air 1.0 here: Clearing The Air 1.0

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

631 Iron City Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15205

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