Fact pollution: Again, the lung association clouds the region's air

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The only question about the American Lung Association's dirty air report is, when will the group come clean?

Once again it has issued a report on the state of the air, and once again one of the monitors in southwestern Pennsylvania has recorded some of the highest emissions readings in the country for ozone and fine particulate pollution.

No surprise there. So why can't the lung association report it that way?

Instead, it grossly and inaccurately lets the pollution readings from a single monitor, typically the one in Liberty Borough, not far from U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works, represent the air quality of a disparate region -- Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette, Butler, Armstrong and Lawrence counties.

From New Castle to Uniontown, Slippery Rock to "Little" Washington, Kittanning to Connellsville, Midland to Ligonier, with the city of Pittsburgh in between, the Liberty monitor speaks for you. Yet 14 different monitors in these counties measure particulate and 12 different monitors track ozone, with numbers all over the lot.

People have a right to be incensed -- and the lung association obliges every year. It issues a deceptively uniform picture of the region's air that is clouded by data collected from one instrument. This is not advocacy, but fact pollution -- and it's almost criminal.

Imagine a Texas business owner thinking about a move to southwestern Pennsylvania. Imagine a Vermont student considering a college in the region. Imagine an Iowa family weighing a job offer in one of these eight counties. If you believe the lung association report, they'll all be inhaling the level of emissions registered in Liberty.

Now imagine the coal-fired power industry producing the same kind of report -- except it lets the monitor with the lowest recorded emissions speak for the air quality of the region. That report would be bogus in the opposite direction for the same reason.

The health group says it applies this shoddy -- our word -- method to every metro region in its report, so all it's doing is comparing apples to apples. But these apples are bad and they're beginning to suggest the credibility of the lung association is rotten.


First Published April 30, 2012 12:00 AM


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