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“Snowflakes aren’t the only particles that will be falling in Downtown Pittsburgh this Christmas. A digital piece of artwork of a cascading waterfall of bright blues, pale yellows and shimmery particles will light up the outside of the Benedum Center on Penn Avenue until the end of December.”
“People walking along the sidewalk in front of the piece on Saturday night glanced up at it and its projector casually, but were more than likely unsure about the message behind it. Or unaware that at any given moment it could burst into orange and red flames. Those colors come as a result of pollutants in the air.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Particle Falls Sheds Light On Pollution

“The visible blanket of smoke from our steel days may have dissipated, but our region’s air continues to rank among the worst in the nation,” writes Liz Miles of Pop City Media.
According to Rachel Filippini, executive director of Group Against Smog and Pollution:
          “It has direct effects on public health,” she says. “Air pollution makes people sick. Clean air is all           relative. It’s not realistic to think there will ever be a safe level of air pollution. It’s not about achieving a           number on a monitor. It’s about being able to open your windows any day of the year or play outside           without it being hazardous to your health.”
          “Pittsburgh is a wonderful city with a lot of great amenities,” Filippini says. “But air quality holds us back.           People that want to relocate here think about air quality. Businesses looking to relocate here think about           it too. Other cities have had more progress more quickly, so we could definitely be more aggressive with           improving our air. Every local government official needs to have air quality on their radar because it’s           affecting their constituents’ health.”
Pop City Media: Are yinz breathing easy? The road to cleaner air in southwestern PA


Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine asks some tough questions about air quality in Pittsburgh in the fall 2014 issue feature “Is better good enough?” by Jeffery Fraser.


Fraser writes:

          “…better air is not necessarily good air when evidence linking pollution to disease, disability and           premature death is considered. Health studies increasingly report stronger evidence tying lower levels of           air pollutants to respiratory ailments, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Exposure           standards once considered adequate to protect human health are regularly rendered obsolete in light of           new, more ominous evidence of a pollutant’s potential to harm.”

In the story, Philip Johnson, interim director of The Heinz Endowments Environment Program and director of the Breathe Project, talks about how Pittsburgh must contend with its air pollution problem as it aims to become a 21st-century city where people choose to live, play and work:
          “Pittsburgh is good at self-reference: How are we now compared to how we were? We’re better, that is           true. And usually, that’s where the conversation ends. But how are we compared to everyone else with           whom we are competing? Not good at all, relatively and absolutely. Our air is worse and our rate of           improvement is much slower.” 
         “What we have to do is ask the question, what is our future? How livable and competitive do we wish to           be? Do we want to be a place defined by its pollution and health risk, or by how clean it is and how           livable it is?” 

Pittsburgh Quarterly: Is better good enough?

Nearly 150 health professionals, civic leaders, parents, environmental advocates, teachers and community members gathered on May 16 to talk about the impact of Pittsburgh’s air quality relative to the high prevalence of asthma in our region.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Summit highlights poor control of asthma here
Pittsburgh Business Times: Pittsburgh air quality still a problem, UPMC doctor says
90.5 FM WESA: Asthma in the region examined in summit for World Asthma Month

People living in a 10-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania have a significantly higher than acceptable risk of developing cancer due to exposure to toxic air pollution released by manufacturing processes, energy production and diesel combustion, according to a new report by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities.


The Pittsburgh Regional Environmental Threats Analysis Report—funded by The Heinz Endowments—analyzes publicly available data on hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), also known as air toxics. Air toxics include approximately 200 pollutants identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as respiratory, neurological and reproductive disorders. The report is the third in a series as part of a project examining major threats to human health and the environment in southwestern Pennsylvania.


“While the region as a whole experiences a constant burden of air toxics, the report found that people living in Allegheny County have a cancer risk more than twice—and in some cases 20 times—that of those living in surrounding rural areas,” said senior author James Fabisiak, associate professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “In fact, the county ranks in the top 2 percent of U.S. counties in terms of cancer risk from hazardous air pollutants.”


A group of Pittsburgh-area environmental groups is calling for rapid action from local health and air quality officials based on the findings of this report. They are asking the Allegheny County Health Department, City of Pittsburgh and other regional authorities to implement the following recommendations in light of report findings and share the resulting information with the community:


1) Implement and enforce Pittsburgh’s Clean Construction Law, which requires publicly funded development projects in the City of Pittsburgh to reduce diesel emissions from their project construction vehicles, and encourage eligible contractors working in the City of Pittsburgh to apply for the Small Construction Contractors Retrofit Program to assist them in paying for emission reduction technologies.


2) Enforce rigorous application of Allegheny County’s updated Air Toxics Guidelines to all permits for facilities connected to hydraulic fracturing.


3) Ensure the Allegheny County Health Department’s upcoming SO2 State Implementation Plan includes strong control measures for coke ovens.


4) Attend a special Sustainable Development Academy briefing program in mid 2014 for the region’s county executives, commissioners, and mayors of large municipal governments and of the highest cancer risk localities to inform public officials of the PRETA report’s findings that the region ranks in the highest percentiles for air quality cancer risk and that there are helpful recommendations for reducing these threats to public health.


Read more:


WTAE: Allegheny County Ranks High For Bad Air 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Report – Allegheny County in Top 2 Percent in U.S. For Cancer Risks From Air Pollution

90.5 WESA: You Could Be 20 Times More Likely To Get Cancer in Allegheny County, Study Says

KDKA: Pittsburgh Region Cancer Risk Is Among Highest In The Nation

CBS Pittsburgh: New Study Shows Allegheny Co. Residents Have Higher Cancer Risk

Pittsburgh Business Times: Pittsburgh Region’s Air Pollution, Cancer Risk High

ThinkProgress: Pittsburgh’s Unique Air Pollution Makes Its Residents More Susceptible to Cancer, Study Says

Allegheny Front: Study: Pittsburgh Air Among The Nation’s Worst

Trib Total Media (McKeesport Daily News): Allegheny County Dwellers Have Greater Risk of Cancer, Pitt Study Finds

Pitt News: Air Study Finds Elevated Cancer Risk in Oakland

A Sunday op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by three top Pittsburgh doctors looks at the state of our air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania and what it means for our health. The first part of their important analysis is excerpted below:


By Drs. Deborah Gentile, Keith Somers and Jonathan Spahr


When the traffic light at an intersection turns yellow, you are forced to make a critical split-second decision: Do you push through or stop? What you decide in that instant affects your safety and the well-being of other motorists.


Think of the air you breathe in Pittsburgh like the colors of a stoplight. For more than two-thirds of the year—8 months—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns us to take caution (“yellow light”) because the air isn’t clean enough. About 10 percent of the year, we breathe “red light” air in violation of one or both federal standards. We get the “green light” to breathe easy for less than 25 percent of the year. Source: J. Graham, Clean Air Task Force


When it comes to the air we breathe in the Pittsburgh region, we live in a “yellow light” moment for two-thirds of the year, when levels of fine particulate matter and ozone threaten the health of many people who live here.


According to an analysis by the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force, our region experienced 245 “yellow light” days in 2012 when its air quality was not rated “good,” as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


Often our air quality is even worse. Our region violated federal health standards for either ozone or fine particulate matter nearly 10 percent of the time — 35 days — in 2012. On these days, we are warned that the air is unhealthy, especially for children, people with heart and lung disease, older adults and those who are active outdoors.


Perhaps these statistics don’t seem so terrible when compared to the dark, smoky days of our industrial past. Indeed, Pittsburgh has undergone a dramatic transformation since James Parton in 1866 called the city “Hell with the lid taken off.”


But a closer look at our air quality and what it means for our health reveals a very different, and alarming, narrative.


Read the full op-ed here:

Heinz Breathe Awards


The Breathe Project presented its first-ever Breathe Awards on September 3, honoring individuals, businesses and organizations in the Pittsburgh region for their outstanding accomplishments with initiatives to improve air quality. The new awards program celebrates innovative work to help clean the air in southwestern Pennsylvania and highlights efforts to raise awareness about air quality issues. Winners included volunteer Brian Brown, PITT OHIO trucking company and Global Links, a medial relief organization.


Pittsburgh Business Times: Pitt Ohio, Global Links win Breathe Awards
90.5 WESA: Breathe Project Honors Clean Air Champions
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Photos of the Day


Heinz Breathe Awards Heinz Breathe Awards Heinz Breathe Awards Heinz Breathe Awards


Photos courtesy of Annie O’Neill Photography.

Breathe Project coordinator Marily Nixon is featured in a new commercial for the Don’t Trash My Turf! campaign of the Pennsylvania Resources Council in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh and funded by the Colcom Foundation. The campaign’s goal is to raise public awareness about the consequences of littering and to encourage individuals to take action to prevent and clean up litter. We’re thrilled to have such wonderful partners in our work to help make Pittsburgh truly the most livable city!


Watch the commercial here:

The East End Food Co-op in Point Breeze is a coalition partner of the Breathe Project, and its members recognize the impact of eating sustainably produced and locally grown food on our region’s air quality.


Food miles are the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is purchased or consumed. The average American prepared meal contains ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). By supporting local food systems, it means your food isn’t traveling hundreds of miles by plane, train, truck and ship to reach your plate–and consuming fossil fuels and spewing air pollution in the process.


Your individual choices really do matter. For instance, a recent NRDC study found that harmful air pollution in California produced from transporting six major food imports was up 45 times more than emissions from local or regional transport of the same foods. What food you eat affects how we all live and breathe.


Read more in the July issue of the East End Food Co-op’s monthly newsletter, The Co-operator.

Phil Johnson, senior program officer with The Heinz Endowments’ environment program, joins Pennsylvania Resources Council director Dave Mazza on Pittsburgh Today Live with host Kristine Sorensen, providing information about the Breathe Project and how to help improve air quality throughout the Pittsburgh region.


Pittsburgh Today Live: The Breathe Project Seeks to Keep Air Quality Clean

January 14, 2015
Moving from Climate Awareness to Climate Action   First Sustainability Pioneers Bridge Party!   Wednesday January 14, 2015, 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM   PointBreezeway 7113 Reynolds St Pittsburgh, PA 15208   Join the first Sustainability Pioneers Bridge Party  – wine & cheese, networking, live music & … Learn More
January 7, 2015
Include air quality issues in the county’s strategic plan! Local air quality groups are circulating a petition urging the Allegheny County Health Department to include air quality in the strategic plan they are adopting at the Board of Health meeting on Jan. 7. Please help move this important issue … Learn More
December 13, 2014
“Particle Falls” Lighting Up the Holiday Season for a Difference The Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project today launches artist Andrea Polli’s Particle Falls, a captivating digital-media installation that provides a real-time visualization of air quality.   At a time of year when Downtown Pittsburgh is aglow with holiday lights that raise … Learn More
October 29, 2014
Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge 2014-2015 Kicks Off The Green Workplace Challenge is back again for another year of exciting competition! If you work for a business, nonprofit, college or university, local government, or a K-12 school in southwestern Pennsylvania, sign up today to start saving money and … Learn More
October 18, 2014
2014 Pittsburgh Solar Tour   Most Pittsburgh house tours showcase beautiful interiors, tasteful design, and the glitz and glamour of bygone eras. The 2014 Pittsburgh Solar Tour is a home tour for the new Pittsburgh.   Join PennFuture to experience raw solar power, energy … Learn More
October 7, 2014
“Sustainability Pioneers” Documentary Premiere   How can Pittsburgh be a leader in building the bridge from our fossil fuel-based economy to an economy based on renewable energy and sustainable living?   Filmmaker and journalist Kirsi Jansa asks this question–arguably the most critical challenge of our … Learn More
October 7, 2014
Smoke Gets Into Your Eyes (Lungs too!)   For the third presentation in the series “Climate Change Here and Now,” scientist Ellis Robinson will investigate the origins and effects of atmospheric particles—unavoidable byproducts of the way our society creates and uses energy.   Robinson is a recent … Learn More
October 5, 2014
Save the Date: Clean Air Dash 5K Save the date and start logging those training miles! The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) second annual Clean Air Dash 5K on the South Side’s Three Rivers Heritage Trail will be here before you know it. The fast, flat and … Learn More
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  • Breathe Project

    Want to find out about the dangers of air pollution in our area and the associated health impacts? Want to see just how bad the pollution is in your own neighborhood? Is there a possible link between pollution and your child's asthma? Head down to the Clean Air Forum to find out - RSVP below.


    WHEN:Wednesday February 11th, 7pmWHO:Albert Presto, Ph.D, Carnegie Mellon University Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies; Deborah Gentile, MD, Allegheny General Hospital; Stephen Riccardi, PennEnvironment

    Jan 30th 9:24pm • No Comments

    Are you ready for some football? The New England Patriots will face off against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday to find out who has bragging rights as the best team in football. We have to wait until Sunday to see who wins, but you can find out right now which city has better air quality using the Breathe Project's Breathe Meter . Compare results with other cities and see how Pittsburgh stacks up!

    Breathe Project

    BREATHE is a unique coalition of business, government, organizations and citizens committed to improving air quality throughout the Pittsburgh region.

    Jan 30th 5:06pm • 1 Comment

    Breathe Project commented on their own photo.

    Jan 27th 9:13pm • No Comments

    Can you tell a good air quality day from a bad one? Check out these two photographic captures from the Breathe Cam to see the dramatic difference. Wind direction plays a big part because pollution from local sources is blown across the region. Spend a little time with Breathe Cam to discover more about the air YOU are breathing.

    Jan 26th 3:27pm • 3 Comments

    Do you work for a business, nonprofit, college/university, municipality, or a K-12 school in southwestern Pennsylvania? Sign up for the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge byJanuary 31st and help make this region a better place to live and work! Details at

    Green Workplace Challenge - Home

    $7.4 million – This is how much participants in the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC) saved in energy costs since 2011. They also:

    Jan 20th 8:13pm • No Comments

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