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Are you interested in competing in 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC) but want to learn more before signing up by the Aug. 31 deadline? Are you signed up for the Challenge and ready to get ahead of the competition?

 

Attend this July 29th workshop to learn more and get started.

 

Workshop Details:
Friday, July 29
8:30 am – 11:30 am (Registration & Breakfast at 8:00 am)
Union Trust Building, 11th Floor Classroom
501 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
More information and event registration

 

Hosted by Sustainable Pittsburgh, the GWC is a yearlong, friendly competition for businesses, nonprofits, universities, and local governments to engage employees and measure improvements in the areas of energy, water, waste, transportation, and more.  Cost savings and positive recognition are just two of the benefits employers can experience through participation.

 

The July 29th workshop, “Blast off the Starting Block – GWC Workshop #1″, guides participants through the first steps of the competition, including how to set up GWC accounts, develop an individualized game plan, build baselines, and start tracking actions. At the end of this workshop, attendees will have a clear strategy for moving forward in the Green Workplace Challenge.  An individual’s employer does not need to be signed up for the competition in order for the individual to attend the workshop.

 

Commit to making the Pittsburgh region a better place to live, work, and play! Sign up for this year’s Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC) and attend the kickoff celebration on June 16!  All are invited to attend the kickoff, regardless of participation.

 

A free competition, the GWC helps employers save money and gain positive recognition in the community while enabling them to measure improvements in the areas of energy, water, waste, and transportation.  This year’s competition features new action categories, a streamlined Master Playbook, Category Playbooks, and new ribbons and points for scaling up your efforts.

 

Since 2011, more than 200 employers throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania saved nearly $9 million in energy and enough water to fill Heinz Field 93 feet. During the kickoff, hear from leading organizations on how they and their employees achieved success. See how they positively impacted the region, from cost savings to resource efficiencies, to an engaged workforce.

 

Thursday, June 16
8:30 am – 11:00 am (Registration & Breakfast at 8:00 am)
August Wilson Center/African American Cultural Heritage Center

 

More information and event registration

 

inhaler

By Philip Johnson, PhD, MPH, MESc
Program Director for Science and Environment
Director, The Breathe Project

The Heinz Endowments

 

A leading pediatric asthma specialist has found that air pollution in the Pittsburgh region contributes to the local incidence and severity of asthmatic disease in our schoolchildren. The study led by Dr. Deborah Gentile, director of allergy and asthma clinical research for Allegheny Health Network, determined that poor air quality in four suburban districts — Northgate, Allegheny Valley, Gateway and Woodland Hills — as well as the City of Pittsburgh was not only the leading predictor of asthma, but it also was associated with a higher rate of uncontrolled asthma in children who participated in the volunteer study.

 

This is the most recent of several studies showing that our region’s air pollution is hurting our children.

 

In 2014, University of Pittsburgh researchers discovered that southwestern Pennsylvania children with autism spectrum disorder were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of airborne chromium, styrene and fine particulate matter pollution.  Dr. Evelyn Talbott, principal investigator of the analysis and a professor of epidemiology in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, found that children exposed during their mothers’ pregnancies and the first two years of life have a greater risk of developing autism.

 

Other studies have examined the region’s air pollution more broadly, but the connections to the impact on children’s health are hard to ignore.

 

Is it a coincidence that an analysis by the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force of state and federal air quality measurement sites from nearly 300 urban areas ranks the Pittsburgh area in the dirtiest 15 percent of monitored cities for fine particulate matter?

 

Is it a coincidence that Allegheny County’s cancer risk attributable to industrial air pollution ranks in the highest 0.03 percent of all counties in the United States, according to the National Air Toxics Assessment?

 

Is it a coincidence that last year Pittsburgh had about 250 days of air quality that was not good, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency? And that Allegheny County is among only a handful of the thousands of counties in the country still not meeting federal air quality standards?

 

Science says all of this is not a coincidence. In fact, science shows that air pollution is hurting our region’s children.

 

Fine particle air pollution prematurely kills nearly 100,000 Americans each year, contributes to asthma, sends many thousands with respiratory and heart disease to hospitals and emergency rooms, and results in untold numbers of lost school and work days. Studies in Pittsburgh and across the country have shown that prenatal, infant and child exposures to air pollutants – such as ozone, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and fine particles – are associated with outcomes including premature birth and low birth weight, impairment of brain development leading to cognitive and behavioral disorders, and acute and chronic respiratory illness and disease.

 

Leading health science and pediatric experts such as Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York note that children are exquisitely more sensitive than adults to toxic chemicals in the environment. Children experience greater exposures to toxic chemicals per pound body weight – meaning they breathe in more air pollution than adults do relative to their size. Their systems are not fully capable of eliminating toxins. Their early developmental processes are easily disrupted by pollutants, so exposures to pollution can lead to a variety of serious health conditions. We should not be surprised that air pollution disproportionately harms our children.

 

Since February, The Heinz Endowments and foundation President Grant Oliphant have been urging people across the region to consider ways of creating what Mr. Oliphant has called a “Just Pittsburgh.” One aspect of this idea is devising strategies to safeguard air and water quality everywhere, for everyone, including our most vulnerable citizens.

 

Here are three things we can do to protect our children:

1) Demand that regulatory officials stop allowing “checkbook compliance” for chronic smoke stack polluters. Industrial sources – which generate nearly 60 percent of Allegheny County’s direct fine particle pollution – should be held to a standard of actual compliance with laws. Industry should not be allowed to pay fines and continue to pollute.

 

2)  Ask school administrations and boards to prioritize protecting children from pollution. Asthma and autism exact a heavy toll on children’s school attendance and performance. Schools can be environmental sanctuaries for children – clean and free of pollution. School staff, environmental health and building maintenance experts can work together to eliminate the use and presence of harmful chemicals, products and pollutants in and around schools, and to ensure the use of newer school buses with lower emissions.

 

3) Encourage elected officials to champion clean air and to promote smart policies and programs. National health experts say that better air quality is one of the most beneficial and effective ways to improve health. Economic benefits also greatly increase due to reduced health care costs. There are many proven ways local officials can make a difference. A few examples include citywide clean construction requirements for developers, building design standards that clean indoor air and reduce the intrusion of outdoor air, and engagement with medical and insurance leaders to encourage preventive health care.

 

A recent Allegheny County health indicator survey found that air pollution is the number one concern of local residents. People want clean air. A just city and region provides a healthy and livable environment for our children, and that includes ensuring that they are breathing clean air.

 

On May 5, Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Health Network and The Breathe Project of The Heinz Endowments presented a summit on the impact of the Pittsburgh region’s air quality on asthma outcomes in our communities.  Pittsburgh’s particulate matter air pollution is among the worst 15 percent of cities across the country. Particulate matter pollution is tied to multiple illnesses, including asthma.  The summit focused on air quality in Pittsburgh and health impacts of urban living.  The summit also summarized recent research findings about asthma outcomes in our region and provided an overview of the region’s clean air plan.

 


Philip Johnson, PhD, MPH, MESc
Program Director, Science and Environment, The Heinz Endowments
Director of the Breathe Project

 


Norman Anderson, MSPH
Environmental Public Health Consultant
Winslow, Maine

 


Deborah Gentile, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine
Director of Research, Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Allegheny Health Network

 


Michael Brauer (Keynote)
Professor, Faculty of Medicine, School of Population and Public Health
Director, Bridge Program, The University of British Columbia

 


Margaret Sammon Parsons, PhD
Healthy Air Campaign Coordinator, American Lung Association in PA

 


Thurman Brendlinger, MBA
Program Director, Clean Air Council

Breathe_Cam_photo_captures-July_2014

Visible pollution in Pittsburgh:  compare days with low vs elevated levels of fine particulate matter. Both our visual and olfactory senses can act as “monitors” of pollution, depending on the type of pollutant. However, some pollutants impart no odors and cannot be seen. (Images from the Breathe Cam)

 

By Albert Presto
Assistant Research Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University

 

What we put into the air doesn’t stay in one place. This may seem obvious to anyone who has stood downwind of a smoky campfire or watched the wind push around dust and leaves. But this fact often seems to be forgotten when examining the impacts of a pollution source on nearby populations. The bias is generally to focus very close to the source. This is with good reason – regardless of which way the wind is blowing, emissions from a factory or other facility will almost always be present nearby – but it also can give the misleading impression that only those people living in the shadow of a source can be affected.

 

In Pittsburgh, our noses can remind us of the presence nearby pollution sources. Local residents, myself included, will report instances of “industrial” odors, even if they live or work miles away from the nearest major industrial facility. Others smell nothing. The odors tend to be most intense in the morning hours, when the atmosphere is calm and the ground-level mixed layer is shallow, meaning that emissions are trapped near the ground.

 

To many, the source of these odors can be puzzling. We don’t live in Pittsburgh’s bad old days, when steel mills up and down the rivers belched black smoke day and night. Often there is no visible indication of a source, such as smoke or an idling truck nearby. The few remaining major sources are clustered into a few enclaves along the rivers (like the Monongahela River valley industrial complex), often far from where people smell and report the odors from. With no smoking gun, what makes the stink?

 

To help answer this question, my research group at Carnegie Mellon University recently characterized air pollution in two Pittsburgh neighborhoods about 10 miles from any major industrial sources. We found that in both locations, one in the suburban south hills and one in Squirrel Hill, concentrations of some pollutants would peak during the overnight and early morning hours. These pollutants included a class of cancer-causing organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, and xylenes, collectively known as BTEX. BTEX is emitted by a number of different sources, including automobiles and some industrial activities.

 

We were able to determine that the nighttime and early morning peaks in BTEX are the result of nearby industrial emissions, trapped near the ground by weather conditions, and transported to our measurement locations by the wind. The industrial sources contributed about 70 percent of the measured BTEX at the two measurement sites, with traffic making up about a quarter. This means that industrial sources can dominate human exposures to pollutants classified as air toxics by the EPA. Industrial and traffic sources show very different temporal patterns – the traffic source is strongest in the day, when people are driving their cars, whereas the industrial source peaks overnight, during hours when many people are home and asleep. Thus, people may be unaware of their exposure. The industrial plumes can also persist into the morning hours, mixing with traffic emissions and affecting exposures during the early waking hours.

 

Do these BTEX plumes match with reports from the local nose patrol? Our initial results indicate that they do. Several volunteers logged smell reports while my team was making our measurements. Each smell event logged by our volunteers matched a measured overnight plume, though our smellers did not log every measured plume event. It’s important to note that smelly or not, these plumes exist and impact large parts of the county. Truly determining the accuracy of the human nose at identifying these industrial plumes will require a more focused study, but the initial results suggest that the industrial smells noticed by the public are real and are the result of plumes of industrial emissions.

 

Read the full report on this research.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016
MEDIA CONTACT: Lou Takacs, Communications Director
412-350-4157, Louis.Takacs@AlleghenyCounty.US

 

(Pittsburgh) May 17, 2016    An audit by Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner indicates that the use of negotiated settlements known as consent decrees has failed to result in major air pollution sources coming into compliance with regulations. Rather than compelling significant reductions in emissions, these agreements have allowed the operators of polluting facilities to pay agreed-upon penalties while they continue to pollute at non-compliant levels.

 

“Instead of bringing harmful emissions to within regulatory limits and realizing the benefits such reductions would bring to the health of Allegheny County residents, major polluters have essentially been allowed to write their own ticket and continue to pollute,” Wagner said. “When companies consider fines simply part of the cost of doing business, of course their performance does not improve.”

 

Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designates at least part of Allegheny County as in non-attainment for three of six criteria pollutants: ozone, fine particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide. In 2013, Pittsburgh ranked below a dozen other benchmark metropolitan areas in both ozone and fine particulate matter measurements, according to EPA.

 

“If we are truly to leave behind the popular perception of Pittsburgh as the ‘smoky city’ and make our region the ‘most livable’ for all of our residents, we must work to make the facts match the rhetoric,” Wagner said.

 

The audit determined that understaffing in the Allegheny County Health Department’s (ACHD) Air Quality program has likely promoted the use of consent decrees rather than pursuing litigation which could have succeeded in reducing pollution levels. ACHD has generally had only one attorney on staff to negotiate and litigate air quality non-compliance, though a second attorney was recently hired.

 

For violations which have not been subject to consent agreements, the audit found that while federal regulations allow for increasing fines for repeat non-compliance up to a $25,000 per day maximum, ACHD has not fully employed this tool to compel reductions, leaving fines below the maximum penalty even as violations continue.

 

“If the rules continue to be broken after one punishment, then more serious penalties are warranted. Children are held to this standard, but not corporations? It’s time for the Health Department to get serious about companies that persist in breaking the law,” Wagner said.

 

The audit also found that a lack of adequate technological, organizational and human resources within the Air Quality Program resulted in significant backlogs in permit applications. A backlog of more than 200 initial or renewal permit applications existed, and 18 pollution sources were in operation based on installation permits without ever even applying for an operating permit. One facility was operating with its installation permit pending since 2009.

 

“While enforcement is a paramount duty of the Air Quality program, it also has a responsibility to industry to provide certainty and a stable regulatory environment. It is failing in this respect when permits are not issued for months or years on end,” Wagner said. “While these delays are not preventing companies from setting up shop and operating, they do send a poor message to manufacturers which may consider locating in Allegheny County.”

 

The ACHD’s current program management software is unable to even produce a list of all outstanding applications. This software also failed to generate bills for more than $7,000 in administrative fees which should have been collected by ACHD during 2014.

 

The audit also found that Air Quality program enforcement staff does not adequately document its evaluations of reports submitted by pollution sources so that verification may occur by management or interested outside parties.

 

“I believe firmly in ‘trust but verify.’ A signature on a form doesn’t tell me anything about what my children are breathing. The public needs to know how submissions from polluters are evaluated so that there can be confidence that the information we have is accurate,” Wagner said.

 

Despite available financial resources, the ACHD has not hired new monitoring staff until longstanding employees have retired or otherwise left their positions, preventing on-the-job training by experienced staff and the continuity of institutional knowledge. Furthermore, once vacancies have occurred they have often not been filled quickly.

 

“While there are always financial and practical limitations on government, I believe as an elected official and as a mother that investments in ensuring the quality of our air are essential, and that making improvements in monitoring should be a foremost priority for the County,” Wagner said.

 

The full Analysis of the Allegheny County Health Department’s Air Quality Program For the Period January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014 can be viewed here.

 

FracTracker Alliance invites southwest PA residents to learn more about the first ever online, searchable map of oil and gas leases in Allegheny County, PA. FracTracker is holding a public workshop at the PCA galleries on May 12th to demonstrate how to use the online lease map and search tools. Suggested donation for this workshop is $10. Please RSVP for this event at: http://goo.gl/forms/0R4kYLvIM3.

 

The workshop is part of a broader exhibition by the Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PF/PCA) showcasing the impacts of oil and gas extraction in Pennsylvania.

GASP event on May 11, 5-8pm at Botany Hall, Phipps Conservatory Advance Registration.

To commemorate World Asthma Month in May, Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, and The Breathe Project are presenting a summit on the impact of the Pittsburgh region’s air quality on asthma outcomes in our communities. Pittsburgh’s particulate matter air pollution is among the worst 15 percent of cities across the country. Particulate matter pollution is tied to multiple illnesses, including asthma. The summit will focus on air quality in Pittsburgh and the impact of urban living on health. The summit also will summarize action items to clean our region’s air.

 

This conference is intended for internal medicine and family practice physicians, pediatricians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, asthma specialists, pulmonary specialists, cardiac specialists, obstetricians and public health specialists. The conference also welcomes all members of the community, including parents, school nurses, administrators, teachers and community leaders. The summit is free and is open to the public.

 

At the conclusion of the conference, participants should have the ability to:

-Discuss air quality issues in Pittsburgh and associated health challenges.

-Recognize the impact of regional air quality on asthma outcomes in Pittsburgh.

-Understand the impacts of urban living on health.

-Discuss ways to improve the region’s air quality.

 

Conference Location:
Pittsburgh Marriott City Center
112 Washington Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

 

Conference Date:
Thursday, May 5, 2016

 

Registration:
Registration deadline is May 2, 1016. (Scroll down to the May 5th event.)
Registrations will be taken after the deadline date on a space-available basis.

 

You also can download the brochure for this conference that contains the conference schedule and additional information.

 

Parking:
Chatham Center Parking Garage (112 Washington Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15219)
Parking is available in the Chatham Center parking garage with easy elevator access to the hotel meeting rooms. Self-parking is $12.00 per day, with no in and out privileges. (Sorry, parking cannot be validated.)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

 

Presentations Will Include Results of AHN Study on Asthma in Pittsburgh-area Schoolchildren, Keynote Address on Health Impacts of Urban Living 

 
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Leading asthma experts will gather Thursday, May 5 in Pittsburgh to explore the impact regional air quality has on asthmatic disease in the Pittsburgh community. “The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma in Our Community,” presented by Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and The Breathe Project of The Heinz Endowments, runs from 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

 

AHN’s Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) and The Breathe Project have partnered since 2012 to bring together internationally leading experts on the health impacts of air pollution to address the latest scientific information and raise further awareness about this public health issue. The Summit is free and open to the public, and members of the media are invited to attend.

 

A highlight of this year’s Summit will be a presentation by Deborah Gentile, MD, Director of Allergy and Asthma Clinical Research in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at AHN, on findings from a recently completed study of asthma prevalence, severity and risk factors among local school children. The Breathe Project funded Dr. Gentile’s pilot study of 267 fifth-grade students from 12 Pittsburgh-area schools. She will make her presentation, “Impact of Air Quality on Asthma Outcomes in Our Region’s Schoolchildren,” at 9 a.m.

 

The keynote speaker at the Summit is Michael Brauer, ScD, a professor of medicine at The University of British Columbia who sits on the Scientific Advisory Panel of the Climate and Clear Air Coalition (CCAC), part of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Dr. Brauer specializes in the assessment of exposure and health impacts of air pollution, particularly transportation-related and biomass air pollution. His keynote address, “Health Impacts of Urban Living,” is scheduled for 10:15 to 11:15 a.m.

 

“Pittsburgh certainly has come a long way from the place where the streetlights infamously would come on during the daytime because the air was so heavy and dark from pollution, but much work remains to be done,” said Dr. Gentile. “Pittsburgh’s particulate matter pollution is among the worst 15 percent of cities in the United States, and particulate matter pollution is tied to multiple illnesses, including asthma. The Allergy and Asthma Foundation has ranked Pittsburgh as the 27th-most challenging U.S. city to live with asthma. Events like the Summit are important to ensure we are working together to develop the best possible solutions to the asthma epidemic.”

 

Other topics and presenters at the Summit will include:

•    “Air Quality in Pittsburgh and Environmental Health Challenges” – 8:10 a.m., Philip Johnson, MPH, PhD, Program Director for Science and Environment and Director of The Breathe Project at The Heinz Endowments

•    “Developing Air Quality Guidance Criteria for Urban Planners: How Model Cities Can Make a Difference” – 8:30 a.m., Norman Anderson, MSPH, environmental public health consultant

•    “Call to Action: Working Together for Clean Air in the Region” – 11:15 a.m., Thurman Brendlinger, MBA, Program Director, Clean Air Council and Margaret Sammon Parsons, PhD, Healthy Air Campaign Coordinator, American Lung Association in PA

 

Nearly 25 million Americans, and more than 9 percent of children, suffer from asthma. It accounts for 25 percent of all emergency room visits and 3,300 deaths yearly, many of which could be avoided with proper treatment and care.

 

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