Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Don't Breathe Easy: Lung Association ranks region high in air pollutants

The American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report leaves much to be desired in the Pittsburgh region. In cities most polluted by short-term and long-term particle pollution, Pittsburgh's own New Castle received first and second place rankings, respectively. However, Bill Flanagan, Executive Vice President of the Allegheny Conference, says the report creates a distorted picture of the region. There are many contributing factors toward this ongoing problem, including out-of-state pollutants being blown into the state. There are also concentrated levels of pollutants where the Clairton Coke Works Plant is located, but Joseph Osborne, legal director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution, says this report should not be overlooked because of that. He says the levels are still high throughout Allegheny County, but in the Glassport/Liberty/Clairton area, where at least 20,000 people live, is affecting many. It's not a statistic to be ignored. Flanagan says the ALA collects their data solely from the single worst reading on a given day, and it's unrepresentative of the region.

A misconception that is baffling for Osborne is the claim that the ALA has inaccurate readings, but in fact the readings come from several meters the Environmental Protection Agency has approved. He says there were eight meters in Allegheny County in 2007. Flanagan agrees that the ALA has accurate readings, but are distorted because it is concentrated to the single worst reading, with no other meters with lower rates being factored in.

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