The air quality battle is far from over

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The recent article about PM2.5 emissions (“Allegheny County Air Quality Meets All PM2.5 Federal Standards for First Time,” March 15) makes an important point. In order for our region to comply with federal air quality standards, the county must post three consecutive years of data showing these fine particulate pollution levels are at or below federal standards.

The Health Department’s announcement is a welcome sign of progress, but residents should not think that the air is healthy just yet. Our air is still making people sick, and we should not settle for anything less than consistently clean, healthy air for our kids and our families.

Work remains to improve air quality in the region, and PM2.5 levels are still a concern locally. On average, the concentration of PM2.5 in Pittsburgh is worse than 90 percent of the United States. And what about the levels of other harmful air pollutants like sulfur dioxide? There is plenty of evidence that we have a long way to go. The air monitors in our region for levels of sulfur dioxide have not yet reached the federal standard. In fact, the monitors show almost twice the acceptable levels.

It is not a given that our air will stay in compliance in 2014. Residents in the Mon Valley have already had several red alert days since the first of the year. And Shenango coke works had one or more air violations on 330 days in a 432-day period over 2012 and 2013.

The county’s announcement is an important step forward, but more work remains to be done. As a mom of a child with asthma, I can certainly attest to that.

MICHELLE NACCARATI-CHAPKIS
Executive Director
Women for a Healthy Environment
Squirrel Hill


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