Science & Technology
5:38 pm
Fri November 4, 2011

Environmentalists Call for Swift Action on Air Quality

Environmental activists are urging the Allegheny County Board of Health to act more quickly on updating air quality regulations.

Tom Hoffman, Executive Director of Clean Water Action, said the County's current air quality guidelines for industrial and commercial structures are outdated and contribute to the Pittsburgh area's "bad air."

"They were written when Reagan was in the White House and the space shuttle program was brand new," said Hoffman. "Now, both of those are gone and we still have the same tired, old guidelines."

Hoffman said the Board of Health has been drafting new air quality regulations for about two years. Now, his group and other environmental organizations are calling on the Board to pass the guidelines by next March.

The environmentalists are calling for the updated regulations to reflect current scientific knowledge about air toxics, and to take into consideration the context of a place before allowing air toxic emissions to take place there.

Hoffman said Pittsburgh's poor air quality is holding back the local economy.

"We want to market ourselves as sort of a high-tech place, where people will come to work for high-tech jobs that don't necessarily produce pollution," said Hoffman. "But those people are not going to want to come here if we have bad air."

The American Lung Association's recent "State of the Air 2011" report ranked Pittsburgh's air quality among the worst of the nation's metropolitan areas. Allegheny County received an "F" grade for the year, netting the 3rd-worst rank in the country for short-term particle pollution, among other poor statistics.