Allegheny County air quality dips into unhealthy range after July 4 fireworks | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Allegheny County air quality dips into unhealthy range after July 4 fireworks

The Allegheny County Health Department issued an alert around 9:30 a.m. on July 5 that there has been a high particulate concentration in the county's air since about 11 p.m. on July 4. The county stated the increased air pollution is “likely due to widespread Fourth of July fireworks and stagnant air/low winds.”

The alert states that conditions were expected to improve as the morning fog dissolved. Air quality advocates at Group Against Smog and Pollution tweeted a screenshot of the alert along with air quality index readings from 8 a.m. in Pittsburgh at 127 AQI, which is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, and in Clairton at 157 AQI, which is considered unhealthy for everyone.
By approximately 2 p.m., readings dropped in Pittsburgh to 112 AQI and in Clairton to 131 AQI, both of which are still unhealthy for sensitive groups, including people with cardiovascular disease or lung disease, children and teenagers, and older adults. Those who are obese or have diabetes may also be at higher risk.

Allegheny County consistently receives failing grades for air quality from the American Lung Association, thanks in large part to air pollution emitted by large, industrial facilities in the region. While the region may see improvement as Clairton Coke Works idles its three highest polluting batteries by 2023, air quality remains a concern for local activists and continues to affect residents. The region's prevalence for inversions — a weather phenomenon occurring when the air on the ground is quite warm, but cold air masses above it in the atmosphere trap pollutants near the surface — contributes to the region's air quality woes.

Particle pollution is linked to health problems such as coughing, wheezing, reduced lung function, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes. When AQI readings indicate unhealthy levels, reducing time outdoors and spending less time near busy roads can help reduce exposure.