Wednesday morning, members of several different air quality groups gathered in downtown Pittsburgh to stage a “play-in” with their children to draw attention to air quality issues in our city. The event coincided with a major coke production technology conference happening in downtown. Here’s what they had to say.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2015
Trisha Sheehan, Moms Clean Air Force
firstname.lastname@example.org, (856) 796-0300
Local Health and Environmental Leaders Call for Action to Protect Allegheny County Families from Air Pollution
“Play-in” brings together families, health experts and advocates supporting clean air as coke manufacturing convention rolls into Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pa. – Health and environmental advocates from throughout Allegheny County came together this morning in downtown Pittsburgh to draw attention to the negative health impact air pollution has on local families – and to urge policymakers and business leaders to take action. Pittsburgh ranks as one of the top 10 most polluted cities in the nation with regard to short- and long-term particle pollution, according to an annual survey from the American Lung Association. That kind of pollution can increase the risk of heart and lung disease, adverse birth outcomes, cancer and premature death.
Today’s event coincided with the Met Coke 2015 convention, a gathering of leaders in the coke, coal and steel industries. Attendees at the conference plan to discuss how technology and innovation can shape the coke manufacturing industry. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies the toxins from coke manufacturing emissions as among the most toxic, labeling it a carcinogen.
The largest coke plant in the country – U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works – is right here in Allegheny County.
“Two years ago, the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health reported that residents of Allegheny County are facing a cancer risk twice – and in some cases, even 20 – times higher than those living in surrounding areas due to air pollution,” said Dr. Marsha Haley, a radiation oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “That’s an astounding statistic, and it carries undeniable consequences for our public health. If we are serious about improving the health of our families, industry workers, and especially our children, we must address the pollution coming from coke facilities and other industrial plants in our area.”
“I love living in the Pittsburgh area – it’s my family’s home, and there’s nowhere else I’d want to raise my children. But parents like me shouldn’t have to worry every day about the quality of air our kids are breathing,” said Patrice Tomcik, an organizer with Moms Clean Air Force. “We know that many of the industrial facilities in this region pump toxins into the air that make people sick, and we know that many of these facilities do not regularly comply with the health guidelines meant to keep all of us safe. It’s time for that to change – our kids deserve better.”
Earlier this week, the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center issued a “Toxic Ten” report, which found that more than one-third of Allegheny County residents live within just three miles of 10 industrial facilities responsible for pumping at least 1.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into the air in 2013. The emissions from these Toxic Ten facilities include chromium, manganese, and benzene – toxins that can cause an array of health problems including cancer.
“The Pittsburgh region is home to the highest density concentration of coke manufacturing operations anywhere in the United States,” said Dr. Albert Presto, a Carnegie Mellon University researcher with significant expertise in mapping the spread of toxic emissions in and around Pittsburgh. “We also know that the highest levels of air pollutants in Allegheny County are recorded at the monitors near the Shenango and Clairton coke works. It’s not just the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the shadow of these facilities who are exposed – toxins form plumes that can travel miles through the air, making this a problem about which every single person living in our region should be concerned.”
“It’s ironic that Pittsburgh is chosen to highlight the success of coke-making when the coke plants in our backyard are regularly violating the health standards put in place to protect our communities,” said Cassi Steenblok, Program Organizer for Clean Water Action. “We work with people throughout the Mon Valley who are forced to live with the health effects of being in a region consistently among the worst in the nation for air quality because of a local coke plant. These facilities need to recognize the effect they are having on our health and the environment and take an active role in cleaning up their acts.”
“Today’s event shows that families throughout the Pittsburgh region are rightfully taking air pollution seriously,” said Stephen Riccardi, with PennEnvironment. “Our Toxic Ten report, released earlier this week, shows that one in three individuals live within a three-mile radius of Allegheny County’s most toxic air polluters. This has implications for all of us and our families, and we all need to work together if we’re serious about making Pittsburgh the Most Livable City.”
“We continue to be concerned about the health implications that toxic emissions from local coke plants have on families all across Allegheny County,” said Rachel Filippini, Executive Director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP). “The best and brightest minds in the coke industry are in Pittsburgh right now talking about opportunities for and challenges to their industry. I hope they take this unique opportunity to talk about technologies, work practices, and innovations that could reduce their emissions and the serious impact they have on Pittsburghers’ health and quality of life.”