Our region’s unhealthy air is our dirty little secret. It’s an ironic stain that detracts from an otherwise recognized rising sustainable city and region.
According to the Clean Air Council, the American Lung Association’s 2016 State of the Air report indicates our region landed as the eighth worst in the country for year-round measures on fine particle pollution (or soot), and the 14th worst for short-term particle pollution (the number of days with unhealthy particle levels when air quality is especially dangerous). Pittsburgh ranked 26th worst in the nation for smog from ground-level ozone. Asthma rates for the Pittsburgh region, especially children, exceed the national average and air pollution plays a big role in that.
We own this poor air quality. It says much about who we are, the type of economy we subsidize and who comes first, our self-respect for health and for each other, which costs we count and the effectiveness of our governance systems. On the latter, the Oct. 21 PG article “County Late on Permits for Major Polluters, Groups Say” speaks to the way we’ve come to rationalize the irrational and devalue the air we breathe.
We cannot win the competition for investment, talent, business, job growth, etc., while perpetuating our indignant affair with a model for progress that is no longer legitimate in a world where clean air is a litmus for a community that gets it and is going places. The only winds that will fill our economic sails will be those that blow clean.