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American Lung Association's 'State Of The Air' Report Ranks Pittsburgh Ninth For Worst Air In U.S.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The 12-county tri-state region got an "F" rating Wednesday for air quality from the American Lung Association.

But a local labor and business group says that rating is distorted and does not accurately reflect this region's air quality.

"Bottom line: we have serious problems here, ranking the area among the worst in the country, and it is one of a handful of areas across the country that gets straight F's for air pollution," Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

That finding by the ALA for both ozone smog and small particulate matter was cited by local environmental groups as a reason for more action.

"We still have, believe it or not, a significant amount of industrial sources of pollution that cause us to have bad air days," says Michael Mehalik, executive director of the Breathe Project.

"We've experienced at least twelve days since the beginning of spring," he adds.

  • Click here for more specific data on the Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton metro area.

"We still see high levels of PM 2.5, which is particulate matter," notes Dr. Deborah Gentile. "We still see high levels of sulfur dioxide, and both of those are known to trigger health problems, certainly respiratory disease such as asthma, cardiac problems, even premature death."

Gentile, an allergist, says air pollution contributes to the high number of allergies here.

"Allergy-wise, we're the top – we're number five in the country," she says.

Jeff Nobers, the executive director of Pittsburgh Works Together, a consortium of labor unions, trade groups and companies in the energy, steel and manufacturing sector, says the Lung Associations' rating is distorted, misleading and ignores federal standards.

"The Lung Association comes up with its own criteria by which it wants to judge the air quality in our region," says Nobers. "Last year, for the first time ever, Allegheny County, all of the monitors met those air quality standards as promulgated by the federal government."

The American Lung Association acknowledges that its standards for clean air are higher than current federal standards.

"The current standards for ozone and fine particle pollution are inadequate to protect public health," says Stewart.

Even though the American Lung Association gave the region an F, that's mostly because of air quality in Allegheny and Beaver counties.

Most of the other counties got B's and C's, while Armstrong, Lawrence and Washington Counties actually got A's.

To read the full State Of The Air Report, visit the American Lung Association's website here.

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