Pittsburgh Metro Area Earns First Passing Grade for Year-Round Particle Pollution; Continues to Rank Among Worst 25 Metro Areas in U.S. for Both Year-Round and Short-Term Particle Pollution;

Had Fewest High Ozone Days, but Still Gets Failing Grade

The 2022 “State of the Air” report, released today by the American Lung Association, finds that measures for the 12-county Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV metro area improved for some of the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. This included marking the region’s first ever passing grade for the year-round average of fine particle pollution, meeting the current EPA standard for this pollutant measure during the 2018-2020 period.  

Nevertheless, the metro area continues to rank among the worst 25 metro areas in the country for both the year-round (14th worst) and (daily) short-term (22nd worst) measures of fine particle pollution. It also continues to post failing grades for both daily pollutants—short-term particles as well as ozone smog. 

The metro area did significantly improve across the board for the third consecutive year for all three measures of air pollution covered in the report, reducing its year-round average for fine particles, and recorded fewer days with unhealthy air for both ozone and particle pollution. The area’s best ranking was for ozone, improving to 46th worst of 226 metro areas with grades, compared to 35th last year. 

The “State of the Air” report is the Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” that tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution (also known as smog), annual particle pollution (also known as soot), and short-term spikes in particle pollution, over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2018-2020. See the full report at Lung.org/sota. 

“The levels of ozone and particle pollution seen in the Pittsburgh metro area can harm the health of all of our residents, but particularly at risk are children, older adults, pregnant people and those living with chronic disease. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer,” said Molly Pisciottano, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association. “Fortunately, the area did see improvements in all measured levels and recorded its first passing grade for long-term particle pollution.” 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in the Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV Metro Area 

Compared to the 2021 report, the Pittsburgh metro area experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report. “State of the Air” ranked the Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton metro area as the 46th most polluted city for ozone smog, which is better compared to its ranking of 35th in last year’s report. The metro area continued to receive an “F” grade for ozone pollution. 

Particle Pollution in the Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, PA-OH-WV Metro Area 

The 2022 “State of the Air” report found that year-round particle pollution levels in the Pittsburgh metro area were significantly lower than in last year’s report and marked the area’s third year of improvement to its best-ever, with its first passing grade ever. However, the area was ranked 14th most polluted for year-round particle pollution (though better than its ranking of 9th worst in the nation last year). The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The Pittsburgh metro area’s short-term particle pollution yet again improved in this year’s report, which means there were fewer unhealthy days. The area is ranked 22nd worst for short-term particle pollution, better than last year’s ranking of 16th worst, and continues to earn an “F” grade for daily particles.  

The report found that nationwide, nearly 9 million more people were impacted by deadly particle pollution than reported last year. It also shows more days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality than ever before in the two-decade history of this report. Overall, more than 137 million Americans live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. Communities of color are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air. The report found that people of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant, and 3.6 times as likely to live in a county with a failing grade for all three pollutants. 

The addition of 2020 data to the 2022 “State of the Air” report gives a first look at air quality trends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the shutdowns in early 2020, there was no obvious improvement.  

The American Lung Association is calling on the Biden administration to strengthen the national limits on both short-term and year-round particulate matter air pollution. Stronger standards will educate the public about air pollution levels that threaten their health and drive the cleanup of polluting sources in communities across the country. See the full report results and sign the petition at Lung.org/SOTA. 

Media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, clean air and threats to air quality can contact Val Gleason at [email protected] or 717-971-1123. 

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
[email protected]

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