New Report: Pittsburgh Metro Area’s Air Quality Improves to Best Ever for Ozone Moving from ‘F’ Grade to ‘C’, Continues to Rank Among Most Polluted in U.S. for Both Short-Term and Year-Round Particle

1 in 3 Nationwide Exposed to Unhealthy Air
The 2023 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that measures for the Pittsburgh metro area worsened for both 24-hour and year-round particle pollution but posted best values ever for ozone smog under the current EPA standard, moving from an ‘F’ in last year’s report to a ‘C’ in this year’s report. 

The Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution and short-term spikes in particle pollution over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2019-2021. 

The 12-county Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV metro area continues to rank among the worst 25 metro areas in the country for both short-term and year-round particle pollution (20th worst and 14th worst respectively), but improved significantly for ozone pollution, receiving its first overall passing mark of ‘C’ (up from ‘F’ last year). Nationally, the report found that nearly 120 million people, or more than one in three, in the U.S. live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

“As we can see from this year’s report data, there is much work to be done in the Pittsburgh metro area to improve our air quality,” said Kevin Stewart, Director, Environmental Health for the Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, pregnant women and those living with chronic disease. That’s why we are calling on lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to take action to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe.”

Nationally, the report found that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. However, more work remains to fully clean up harmful pollution, and short-term particle pollution continues to get worse. In addition, some communities bear a greater burden of air pollution. Out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, a disproportionate number – more than 64 million (54%) – are people of color. In fact, people of color were 64% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three measures. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Pittsburgh Metro Area
The Pittsburgh metro area’s performance improved significantly, for a third year to its best ever in 2019-2021 and its ranking improved from 46th to 54th most polluted in the nation. Compared to the 2022 report, Allegheny County, the most polluted county in the Pittsburgh metro area, posted its best-ever weighted annual average of 2.0 unhealthy air days for ozone smog, marking its cleanest period and first-ever passing mark (a ‘C’ grade) having earned an ‘F’ grade in the 2022 report. 

Particle Pollution in Pittsburgh Metro Area – Among Worst 25 Metro Areas in the Country
The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. The metro area’s short-term particle pollution got worse in this year’s report, which means there were more unhealthy days than in last year’s report. The area is ranked 20th worst for short-term particle pollution and received an ‘F’ grade. It remains the worst in the nation for this measure east of Denver, Colorado.

The 2023 “State of the Air” found that year-round particle pollution levels in the Pittsburgh metro area were slightly higher than last year’s best level ever. The area was ranked 14th most polluted for year-round particle pollution, meeting the air quality standard but continuing to rank among worst 25 metro areas in the country, following Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, IN and Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI as the third worst in the nation for the measure east of Phoenix, AZ. 

The American Lung Association is calling on President Biden to urgently move forward on several measures to clean up air pollution nationwide, including new pollution limits on ozone and particle pollution and new measures to clean up power plants and vehicles. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA.
 
For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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