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“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

August 24, 2014
Breathe Project Family Ride at PedalPGH   Biking is a zero-emissions way to get around the city that’s good for the body and for our air quality. In celebration of Pittsburgh as a safe, bicycle-friendly city, we are proud to sponsor the Breathe Project Family Ride at Bike … Learn More
July 31, 2014
EPA to Hold Pittsburgh Hearings on Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold public hearings for the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule the week of July 28 in four locations across the U.S., including Pittsburgh. The hearings will provide interested parties the opportunity to present data, … Learn More
July 17, 2014
Clean Water Action to Host N.Y. Group with Big Victory in Fight for Cleaner Air Clean Water Action this week is hosting members of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CACWNY) to share their story of community effort to reduce harmful emissions from the Tonawanda Coke plant, an industrial facility with a heinous … 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
July 1, 2014
Public Hearing: Allegheny County Open Burning Regulations The Allegheny County Health Department will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 1 at 10 a.m. in the first floor conference room at Building #7 of the Clack Health Center, 301 39th Street, Lawrenceville, to take testimony on proposed … Learn More
June 6, 2014
Portraits of Air: Pittsburgh   What if you could easily see the invisible particles in the air you breathe?   It can happen through a visual arts exhibition opening next month in conjunction with the 2014 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.   From … Learn More
May 16, 2014
A Regional Summit on Asthma in Our Community You’d be hard pressed to find someone in the Pittsburgh area who doesn’t either have asthma or have a friend or loved one struggling with asthma.   What’s the connection between our region’s poor air quality and asthma–and what challenges … Learn More
April 4, 2014
Ride Against Smog and Pollution   Whether you hit the trails or the roads, bike riding in Pittsburgh is a fabulous way to see the sights, commute and get a little exercise–not to mention, it’s a zero-emissions form of transportation.   When you ride, you … Learn More
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