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Southwest PA: Science
Air Toxics in Allegheny County

Air Toxics in Allegheny County: Sources, airborne concentrations, and human exposure.

Biomass Energy in Pennsylvania: Implications for Air Quality, Carbon Emissions and Forests

This report funded by The Heinz Endowments and conducted by Mary S. Booth, PhD, of the Partnership for Policy Integrity focuses on Pennsylvania’s growing biomass energy sector and its current and potential impacts on air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and forests.

Clearing the Haze: Understanding Western Pennsylvania's Air Pollution Problem

An independent study of the region’s air quality commissioned to the Clean Air Task Force, an internationally respected, science-based nonprofit.

Fine Particulate Matter and Ozone Air Quality in Western Pennsylvania in the 2000s

An independent assessment of the air quality in western Pennsylvania as determined by ambient measurements of ozone and fine particulate matter.

Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threats Analysis (PRETA) Report: Hazardous Air Pollutants

University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Center for Healthy Environments and Communities report on the exposure to and health effects from hazardous air pollutions (air toxics) in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threats Analysis (PRETA) Report: Particulate Matter

University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Center for Healthy Environments and Communities report on the exposure to and human health effects from particulate matter in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Health Impacts of Pittsburgh Air Quality: A Review of the Scientific Literature, 1970-2012

This report, commissioned by The Heinz Endowments, provides the results of a literature search and review regarding scientific assessments of the relationship between current levels of outdoor air pollution in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and human health impacts.

Trees, Trash and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal

Biomass electricity generation, which relies primarily on the burning of wood, is more polluting and worse for air quality than coal, according to an analysis of 88 permits for biomass power plants in 25 states by the Partnership for Public Integrity.

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Southwest PA: Air Quality
A Citizen's Guide to Commenting on Air Permits for Natural Gas Facilities

This handbook from Group Against Smog & Pollution provides information about air pollution from natural gas drilling and production, how these emissions are controlled through the permitting process and how individuals can comment on these permits before they are finalized to voice their concerns and ensure proper regulation.

State of the Air Report 2014

A report card on air pollution in communities across the nation, including Pittsburgh, from the American Lung Association

Livable Air?

Special issue of The Heinz Endowments’ Magazine examining how local public officials, business leaders and environmental activists are at odds in developing air quality solutions.

Mapping Mortality

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette series that examines air pollution in Western Pennsylvania.

Port Authority of Allegheny County Bus Fleet Emissions: 2005-2019

M.J. Bradley & Associates LLC report analyzes actual and projected changes in the annual inventory of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen emitted by Port Authority buses between 2005 and 2019.

Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States

National Resources Defense Council report ranks Pennsylvania as #3 on its list of the “Toxic 20” states ranked by toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

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Health Effects
Air Pollution and Human Health

Upon competition of a 10-year research project that analyzes the effect of air pollution and death rates in U.S. cities, Lester B. Lave and Eugene P. Seskin conclude that the mortality rate in the U.S. could shrink by seven percent with a similar, if not greater decline in disease incidence if industries followed EPA regulations in cutting back on certain pollutant emissions. The authors claim that this reduction is sufficient to add one year to average life expectancy. Originally published in 1977.

Air Pollution as an Underappreciated Cause of Asthma Symptoms

Editorial by air pollution expert George Thurston et al. in the Journal of the American Medical Association discussing the link between ambient air pollution and asthma. 

Health Impacts of Diesel, Based on Data from the National Scale Air Toxics Assessment

Diesel particles cause widespread damage to human health.  The Clean Air Task Force’s report estimates the impact of on-road and off-road sources of diesel particles.

Impact of Changes in Transportation & Commuting Behaviors During the 1996 Summer Olympic[s]...on Air Quality & Childhood Asthma

During the 1996 Summer Olympics Games in Atlanta, CDC researchers took advantage of a natural experiment to learn about the impact on pediatric asthma of decreased traffic levels and improved air quality. Their findings are reported in this 2001 JAMA paper.

The Lancet - Estimates and 25-year trends of the global burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution

Estimates and 25-year trends of the global burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution: an analysis of data from the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2015


A new report by the Global Burden of Disease team estimates that outdoor fine particulates (PM2.5) was the fifth leading cause of death globally in 2015 – that’s an estimated 4.2 million deaths!  In the United States, PM pollution was the sixth leading cause of death, resulting in approximately 88,000 deaths in 2015.  Particulate exposure also negatively impacts a large number of chronic health conditions.  The good news is that this burden of disease could be lowered for entire populations through policy action at the national and subnational levels, and would lead to increased life expectancy in a short timeframe.  Policy action would really impact the health of Pittsburgh’s citizens because we have one of the highest average PM concentrations in the nation.


Explore the full report here with full text, tables and figures, references and supplementary materials.


Download the PDF here.

Personal Exposures to Traffic-Related Particle Pollution Among Children with Asthma in the South Bronx, NY

Thurston et al. 2010 study finding that smoke emitted from diesel vehicles is a significant contributor to personal particulate matter exposure levels in children living in urban areas.

Summertime Haze Air Pollution and Children with Asthma

Thurston et al. 1997 study found that air pollution can be a major contributor to the respiratory problems experienced by children with asthma during the summer months.

The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source

This study provides a new update from the Clean Air Task Force on the burden of death and disease from coal-based electricity production across the United States.

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Jobs and Economy
Bicycling Means Business: The Economic Benefits of Bicycle Infrastructure

This report from the League of American Bicyclists shows what economic returns communities across the country have already experience from investment in bicycle infrastructure, which also has air quality benefits.

Links Between Air Quality and Economic Growth: Implications for Pittsburgh

This RAND Corporation report asks how local air quality influences local economic growth through health and workforce issues, quality-of-life issues, or air quality regulations and business operations–and how those effects impact the Pittsburgh region.

New Jobs-Cleaner Air Part II: An Investment in American Businesses and American Jobs

Ceres report demonstrating how air pollution reductions in the electric power sector will provide long-term economic benefits in the form of highly skilled, well-paying jobs created through infrastructure investment.

Energy: A Citizens' Solutions Guide

Key facts from Public Agenda about various energy sources, considering cost, energy security and environmental impact.

EXHAUST-ed! Community Exposure to Diesel Air Pollution in California's Transportation Corridor

A report supported by The Kresge Foundation on diesel-truck traffic impacts to communities along a California highway, making the case that citizen watchdogs can help in air quality monitoring and mitigating harmful emissions. 



Importing Pollution (2008)

In this report, the Union of Concerned Scientists examines the links between coal-fueled power and climate policy in the U.S. Northeast. 

Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan Version 2.0

Pittsburgh Climate Initiative plan (April 2012) to help meet the local greenhouse gas reduction target of 20 percent below 2003 levels by 2023. 

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Breathe Project
Air Time

“Air Time,” in h magazine, details how the Breathe Project campaign is using traditional and social media to make sure cleaning up the Pittsburgh region’s air is a universal message. 

Let's Clean Our Air, Together: A Breathe Project Presentation

PowerPoint presentation providing background on the Breathe Project, information about the air quality problem in southwestern Pennsylvania and potential solutions.

The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma & Other Health Impacts of Air Pollution

Links to presentations from the May 2013 World Asthma Day event addressing Pittsburgh’s asthma epidemic, as well as newly presented findings about how air pollution affects birth outcomes, cancer, heart and lung disease and mortality rates in the Pittsburgh region.

The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma and the Environment

Links to presentations from the May 2012 Asthma Summit sponsored by the Breathe Project and West Penn Allegheny Health System.

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