air quality

CMU Scientists Help Clairton Residents Find Out What's In Their Air

Jun 13, 2017
Kara Holsopple / AP

R. Subramanian has been working on air quality issues for about 15 years. He started with a background in mechanical engineering, then added chemistry and atmospheric science while working on a Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University.

“There are problems to be solved. And I’m an engineer. And I will learn what I need to solve them.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Outside Woodland Hills Academy in Turtle Creek, there’s a little playground with swings, a jungle gym and a couple spring-mounted toy horses. You can’t see it or smell it, but according to data gathered by Carnegie Mellon University, the kids who play there are breathing in about 8 parts per billion of nitrogen dioxide and about 5 micrograms per cubic meter of black carbon.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The Allegheny County Health Department is proposing to remove monitors for lead air pollution in Bridgeville and Lawrenceville at the end of this year.

The changes are outlined in the department’s Air Monitoring Network Plan for 2018, on which it is currently seeking public comment, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Dale Sparks / AP

The Allegheny County Health Department has reached a settlement with a steel company over emissions violations at its Harrison Township processing facility.

The department ordered Allegheny Technologies Inc., to pay a $50,000 fine to the county’s Clean Air Fund and allow some of its property to be used as a bike lane along the Allegheny River.

Chris Stalnaker / 90.5 WESA

Although the smokestacks are largely gone, Pittsburghers still breathe some of the sootiest air in the Eastern U.S., according to a report issued Thursday by a local environmental advocacy group.

 

Frank Franklin II / AP

This story was updated at 2:51pm on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Allegheny County Council voted to ban the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in all public places where smoking is also prohibited after a lengthy debate Tuesday evening.

Residents on both sides of the issue spoke passionately about whether people should be allowed to vape in restaurants, theaters, retail stores, athletic arenas and other public spaces.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University have been climbing onto local rooftops and installing air quality monitors. It’s a project of CMU’s Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions, funded in part by the Environmental Protection Agency. Similar centers were also set up at Harvard and Yale.

Pittsburgh Air Is Still Bad, But It Is Getting Better

Dec 27, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Air quality in western Pennsylvania improved in 2016, according to three regional monitors tracked by the Allegheny County Health Department.

“It was a good year in ozone,” said Jayme Graham, the department's air quality manager.

Alan Levine / Flickr

A report released Thursday by the Allegheny Health Network found a high rate of asthma in Allegheny County elementary school students. The study suggests poor air quality is partially responsible for the pervasive incidences of childhood asthma in the Pittsburgh region.

Deborah Gentile, the director of allergy and asthma clinical research at Allegheny Health Network, surveyed 267 fifth graders in the county and found 29 percent had asthma and 11 percent more were at risk of developing the disease.

Flickr user joseph a

It’s no secret that the air quality in Pittsburgh isn’t great. Last month, the American Lung Association ranked southwestern Pennsylvania as having the eighth highest level of year-round pollutants and the fourteenth highest level of short-term particle pollution in the nation.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA News

Tree Pittsburgh has a lot to celebrate. Friday marks Earth Day, Arbor Day is just around the corner and this year, the nonprofit turns 10 years old. 

Executive Director Danielle Crumrine said, with the help of partners and thousands of volunteers, she's hoping to plant 10,000 trees this year marking a decade of service. That’s five times more than the organization generally plants each year.

“On Earth Day, when everyone’s thinking about trees and the environment, it’s a good time to remind folks that trees need people to care for them,” Crumrine said.

AIRNow.gov

Pittsburgh’s air quality has a ways to go before it's considered healthy, according to the American Lung Association’s latest State of the Air report.

“We report based on how many unhealthy air days they receive for ozone and daily particle pollution,” said Paul Billings, national senior vice president of advocacy. "We also look at the EPA’s reports for year-round particle pollution as well."

Carnegie Mellon University

Over the last year, more than 400 Pittsburghers have gone to their neighborhood Carnegie Library, not to borrow a book, but an air quality monitor.

Now, this partnership with Carnegie Mellon University will be expanded nationwide.

“We want to repeat this experiment all across the nation,” said Sarah Longo, operations manager at AirViz, which makes the monitors. “As a for-profit company, this is our way of paying it forward, because it’s part of our mission to empower as many people as possible.”

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

If you want an update on air quality, look no further than your smartphone.

CREATE Lab, a program of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, and Airviz, a CMU lab spinoff, have developed a smartphone app called SpeckSensor that gives users real-time access to Air Quality Index (AQI) numbers based on their location.

Environmental Protection Agency

  Residents driving past the Clack Health Complex in Lawrenceville might notice green, orange and red flags flying over the building -- a visual guide for those concerned about local air quality.  

The Allegheny County Health Department has adopted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program of flying pennants to signify air quality levels. The color-coded banners went up last week.

'Toxic Ten' List Reveals Top Polluters In Allegheny County

Oct 26, 2015
Eric Schmuttenmaer / flickr

The Penn Environment Research and Policy Center named Allegheny County's ten most toxic industrial pollutants on Monday. The list ranks power facilities by how much pollution they produce, emphasizing that even though the air looks clean in the region, it may not be.

Flickr user Paul Sihvonen-Binder

NASA uses houseplants to help absorb dangerous pollutants on spaceships, and according to Matt Mehalik of Sustainable Pittsburgh, it’s an easy way for offices and other workplaces to keep their air clean as well.

Certain plants can absorb formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and other chemicals that can contribute to a phenomenon known as “sick building syndrome.”

Hot, stagnant conditions with a high of 91 are expected to cause unhealthy ground-level ozone levels for the third consecutive day on Wednesday.

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Southwest PA Air Quality Partnership declared an "code orange" Air Quality Action Day on Monday and Tuesday. Ever worsening temperatures are forecasted Wednesday for parts of the Pittsburgh region.

The first code orange of 2015 occurred June 12.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is recognizing Air Quality Awareness Week by encouraging Pennsylvanians to take action to improve the state’s air quality.

State entities across the country and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have also been taking part in the awareness week, which ends May 1.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Although its air quality is improving, Pittsburgh still ranks among the most polluted U.S. cities.

That’s according to the latest State of the Air report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association (ALA). According to the study, Pittsburgh improved in all measures, including particle and ozone pollution levels, but still fell below national air quality standards.

PublicSource

Whether you’re new to the Pittsburgh region or have lived here your whole life, you probably want to know what’s in the air you’re breathing and where it’s coming from.

This map from PublicSource identifies the facilities that federal standards say are the “major sources” of industrial air pollution in Allegheny County and the amount of pollutants they are allowed to release.

Submitted

Beatrice Dias has asthma, and her three-year-old has had his own respiratory issues, so she installed a personal air monitoring device known as a Speck to see if the air in her home was contributing to their health problems.

“It was as simple as turning on the hood vent above the stove and realizing, ‘wait, the air quality is getting worse, what am I doing wrong? This was supposed to be good for it,’” she said. “But then I followed the trajectory of the air and realized the hood vent was just venting the air up as opposed out of the house.”

Revelations like this is why the Community Robotics Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab began selling Speck Monday.  The air quality monitor detects fine particulates in a room by using a fan to create a vacuum that sucks the matter into the sensor.

Researcher Maps Pittsburgh's Worst Air Pollution

Feb 10, 2015
Courtesy: Albert Presto

Pittsburgh is the 6th most offensive city in the country in terms of air pollution, according to a 2014 report from the American Lung Association.

Michael Bett is a Ben Avon Borough Councilman, and he wants to see the Shenango coke plant on Neville Island shut down, for good.

Bett, who is a co-founder of Allegheny Clean Air Now, made his case for shuttering the plant to the Allegheny County Board of Health meeting Wednesday, ahead of a presentation from the county’s air program manager about plans to improve air quality in 2015.

Breathe Cam / Breathe Project and CREATELab

Improving air quality continues to be a major challenge in the region, but Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab has collaborated with the Breathe Project and introduced Breathe Cam.

It's designed to give area residents direct access to the world's most sophisticated technology for documenting visual pollution in the air they breathe. CMU Robotics professor Illah Nourbakhsh joins us to explain how it works. 

Pittsburgh’s air pollution has improved a great deal over the last few decades, but it still has a long way to go, and the city's air quality remains among the worst in the nation.

Illah Nourbakhsh shares a  haunting statistic about air pollution.

"Air pollution across the US is killing more people than prostate cancer, AIDS and breast cancer put together."

Online Tool Pinpoints Wood Burning Areas

Nov 2, 2014

A Pennsylvania-based clean air activist group has launched a new on-line tool it says will encourage discussion about open wood burning and wood smoke pollution.

The online application launched by The Clean Air Council, called I See Smoke, allows users to pinpoint the area where they are noticing wood smoke pollution on a map. This information is given to the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), which can use the data to resolve the issue.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (and Lungs Too!)

Oct 7, 2014
Brett Ciccotelli / Flickr

They are invisible to the naked eye, but atmospheric particles are a critical factor in the climate equation and are responsible for many of the leading causes of death. We’ll talk about the dangers surrounding particulate pollution with Dr. Neil Donahue, professor of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Air Quality Complications and Shenango Coke Plant

Oct 1, 2014
Jon Dawson / Flickr

The Shenango Coke Works on Neville Island has consistently violated local clean air regulations leading some citizens to ask why the Allegheny County Health Department doesn't shut the plant down.

We pose that question and more to Jim Thompson, Air Quality Program Manager for the Allegheny County Health Department. Hear from Bellevue resident Ken Holmes and other local residents who are concerned about air quality in the area.

Flickr user roy.luck

Three changes to Allegheny County’s regulations on air pollution will be introduced in County Council Tuesday evening.

According to Jim Thompson, deputy director for environmental health at the Allegheny County Health Department, the most significant proposed change would increase the fees paid by “major sources” of air pollution.

“Prior to this year, large sources were paying $57.50/ton of pollutant emitted,” Thompson said. “Starting this year, it will be $85/ton.”

Improving Pittsburgh's Air Quality

Jul 30, 2014
Dane Summerville / Flickr

Pittsburgh does not have the best air quality in the nation- far from it- but ask anyone who grew up in the city before the 1950’s and they’ll tell you that it used to be much worse.

Smog blanketed the city, leading to days in which the streetlights were kept on around the clock. The era of Pittsburgh being known as “hell with the lid off” ended when Mayor David Lawrence began enforcing the Smoke Control Ordinance in the late 1940s.

Doctors and scientists are being called upon to speak at the hearings being held this week in Pittsburgh over the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan.

To asses the new plan from the health angle were Dr. Alan Lockwood of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Kevin Stewart, director of Environmental Health American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.

Dr. Lockwood believed that the new regulations would be a huge step toward improving air quality.

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