New Castle News

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April 27, 2012

New Castle air panned again in annual report

NEW CASTLE — The air in Pennsylvania has improved since last year, according to the American Lung Association.

However, New Castle continues to receive prominent bad press in the association’s annual State of the Air report.

As with previous versions of the report, the region described as Pittsburgh-New Castle continues to rank high in the amount of particulate pollution or soot found in the air. In fact, the State of the Air report listed Pittsburgh-New Castle as having the sixth-worst air in the nation for particulate pollution.

This compares to seventh worst last year.

However, the report said the local air actually improved, despite the deterioration in ratings. Last year, the report showed the region having 32.5 bad air days, while the latest accounting recorded that number at just 26.3. Average year-round levels of particulate pollution for the region fell from 17 micrograms per cubic meter to 16 micrograms.

However, air improved even more in other parts of the county, leading to the lower ranking.

The negative findings for New Castle in the report are nothing new, as they crop up every year. That’s not because the air in New Castle or Lawrence County is as bad as the report documents. Instead, it is the result of a decision to label the area of southwestern Pennsylvania in the report as the Pittsburgh-New Castle region. Hence New Castle is tarred with a bad air brush.

The same report listed the Pittsburgh-New Castle metro area as having the 20th-worst ozone air pollution or smog in the nation. Last year, it was the 24th worst.

Again, smog levels dropped in region, but they declined even more in other parts of the country. The American Lung Association said its overall findings showed air at its cleanest in Pennsylvania since it first began to issue these reports 12 years ago.

More specifically, the report gave Lawrence County a “C” grade for high ozone days. But this compares favorably to adjoining Beaver and Mercer counties, which both received “F” grades.

The report said standards set under the Clean Air Act to clean up major air pollution sources — including coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, and SUVs — are working to cut ozone and particle pollution from the air. But it added that more than 40 percent of people in the United States live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health.

According to the report, those at greatest risk from air pollution include infants, children, older adults, anyone with lung diseases such as asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes, people with low incomes and anyone who works or exercises outdoors.

“Particle pollution can be deadly,” said Kevin M. Stewart, director of environmental health of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “When you breathe particle pollution, you are inhaling a toxic mix of chemicals, metals, aerosols, ash and diesel exhaust. It can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, emergency room visits and even premature death. There is absolutely no question regarding the need to protect public health from particle pollution.”

More information about the report and how the American Lung Association says citizens can respond to it is available by visiting www.stateoftheair.org.

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