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Pittsburgh “Steel City’s” Bad Air Outpaces Los Angeles

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, May 01, 2008 9:09 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Air Pollution, Lung Cancer, Asthma, Toxic Substances, Heart Attacks, Cardiovascular Disease

Pittsburgh has outpaced Los Angeles for the greatest amount of short term particulate air pollution.



IMAGE SOURCE: WikiMedia Commons/ downtown Pittsburgh/ author: CBC at de wikipedia 


Typically it’s been Los Angeles, located in a bowl with carbon monoxide spewing cars clogging highways at all hours, that has won it the designation of the most air-polluted U.S. city.

Move over Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, America’s “Steel City” has grabbed your thunder again for the ninth consecutive year.

The American Lung Association in its “State of the Air” report released Thursday, says Pittsburgh surpassed Los Angeles in short-term particle pollution which combines ash, soot, chemicals, metals, diesel and aerosols as well as smog or ozone.

Those levels can fluctuate and even spike from hours to weeks and are serious irritants to the human lungs. 

Dr. Norman Edelman of the American Lung Association describes it as getting “bad sunburn in your lungs” referring to the irritation. Particles are particularly irritating because they can slip by the body’s ability to eject them by coughing or sneezing.

Once in the lungs they can cause asthma, heart attacks and even cardiovascular disease.  It is thought that non-smokers who get lung cancer may actually be suffering the effects of particle pollution.

Unfortunately particulate matter can stay suspended in the air but drifts. Most of Pittsburgh's dirty air is believed to have drifted over from Ohio power plants, not the diminishing number of steel mills you’d expect in “Steel City.”  

George Leikauf, a professor of environmental health at the School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, quoted by ABC says “In fact, some of California’s air pollution is coming from China.”

Pittsburgh was also second in line for long-term particle pollution behind Los Angeles.

Los Angeles has seen some improvements in air quality and has dropped its year-round particle pollution levels by a third over the last ten years the group reports. It’s also seen improvement in ozone or smog. That results from sunlight mixing with car exhaust and factory vapors. Ozone also irritates the respiratory tract.

125 million Americans, two out of five, reportedly live in areas that have unhealthy amounts of air pollution including ozone or particle pollution. 

What can Americans do to address this national issue?  

Alternatives to diesel emitting vehicles such as school busses and garbage trucks are the first step. Driving less and smarter vehicles would help. For urban planners the challenge will be planning areas where people can walk and bicycle. 

And New York City plans to plant a million extra trees by the year 2017 to cut down on the rates of asthma in young people, a leading cause of hospitalization for those under the age of 15. 

For Professor Leikauf, the implications are right now and of the highest priority for the health of Americans who need clean air to breath.

"If you clean the air now it's going to be clean forever. The cost benefit is very high"  he tells ABC News. #

Top Ten U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution: 1) Pittsburgh, Pa.; 2) Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.; 3) Fresno/Madera, Calif.; 4) Bakersfield, Calif.; 5) Birmingham, Ala.; 6) Logan, Utah 7) Salt Lake City, Utah ; 8) Sacramento, Calif.; 9) Detroit, Mich.; 10) Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia.

Top Ten U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution: 1) Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.; 2) Pittsburgh, Pa.; 3) Bakersfield, Calif.; 4) Birmingham, Ala.; 5) Visalia/Porterville, Calif.; 6) Atlanta, Ga.; 7) Cincinnati, Ohio; 8) Fresno/Madera, Calif. 9) Hanford/Corcoran, Calif.; 10) Detroit, Mich.

Top Ten U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Ozone: 1) Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.; 2) Bakersfield, Calif.; 3) Visalia/Porterville, Calif.; 4) Houston, Texas; 5) Fresno/Madera, Calif. 6) Sacramento, Calif. 7) Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; 8) New York, N.Y./Newark, N.J.; 9) Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia; 10) Baton Rouge, La. #

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