Clearing The Air 2.0

Executive Summary

November, 2021


Read the full report here: Clearing The Air 2.0 report

Clearing The Air 1.0 (February 2021) used EPA data and research by others to dispel the myth that the air in the Pittsburgh region is among the worst in the country. Rather, our air is pretty typical of that found in big-city regions around the country — better than in some places, worse than others.

This report, Clearing The Air 2.0, updates Pittsburgh Works Together’s previous findings using 2020 EPA data, the latest available. The new analysis shows the following:

  • The region’s annual average level of tiny particulate matter in the air (PM2.5) continues to
    decline and improved faster than nearly every other big-city region from 2019 to 2020.
  • As a result, the Pittsburgh region in 2020 had lower average and
    peak PM2.5 levels than most other big-city regions.
  • The region saw a slight uptick in ozone and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in
    absolute terms and relative to other areas. However, levels for both pollutants
    remain below EPA standards and better than in most big-city regions


Notably, the environmental group PennEnvironment issued a new report in October 2021  that further documented the region’s improving air quality. The group’s methodology has serious problems in that it considers air that meets federal Clean Air Act standards as problematic (see detailed explanation in Section IV).

Yet even by PennEnvironment’s standard, the levels of PM2.5 and ozone in the Pittsburgh region are better than in most of the 50 largest metro areas in the country, the group found. This isn’t 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 think exist rather than those that actually do.


Read the full report here: Clearing The Air 2.0 report

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 |
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