Log in

Log in

Air Quality Trends: Improvement in Allegheny County and Across the United States

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 4:34 PM | Anonymous

With over 45 years under the Clean Air Act (CAA) steady and significant air quality improvements have been made in the Three Rivers Region and across the United States in improving air quality. We have seen results of these emissions reductions in decreased adult and infant mortality due to hazardous air pollutants, fewer cases of respiratory disease, and reduced impacts to ecosystems, all while achieving improved economic growth (Source: USEPA).   


The CAA requires regional monitoring of key pollutants, including lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, and particulate matter (coarse and fine).  According to the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) 2016 Air Quality Annual Data Summary for Criteria Pollutants and Selected Other Pollutants, concentrations of these contaminants indicate an overall decreasing trend from 1996 through 2006.   

More recently, air quality improvements include:

  • ACHD ozone monitors showed attainment of the 8-hour standard for the first time in 2016. 
  • Only one of the county-wide monitoring locations showed exceedance of the established annual standard for particulate matter. 
  • All other criteria pollutants were below the annual and short-term federal standards in 2016, showing positive results for the regional air quality improvements. 

Similar decreasing trends have been observed nationally.  In a press release dated August 2, 2017 the USEPA highlights  a 73% drop in combined emissions of six key pollutants between 1970 and 2016. USEPA updates its website with national, county, and city air trends data, including annual reports and interactive maps. These decreasing trends can be largely attributed to permits and standards for new emissions sources or major modifications of existing sources; technology-based standards for emission reductions; cap-and-trade provisions (e.g., sulfur dioxide program of the CAA amendments of 1990); and emissions standards for new motor vehicles (Sources: National Academies Press & USEPA).  

Part of the SWEP Three Rivers Chapter mission is to provide a forum for the sharing of information within the environmental field.  We are not only happy to share this update regarding regional air quality improvements; we are hosting our inaugural event to discuss another regionally relevant environmental topic.  On September 19th, Arletta Scott Williams, the director of ALCOSAN, will be speaking about ALCOSAN’s mission to protect local water resources and achieve Clean Water Act compliance.  

About the author:  Heather Tahon, BCES has 13 years of experience in investigation and remediation of environmental media and environmental due diligence for a variety of public and private sector clients in the United States and Europe.  Heather is a founding member of SWEP Three Rivers Chapter and is Co-Chair of the organization.

Copyright © 2024

Three Rivers Society of Women Environmental Professionals

A 501(c)(6) nonprofit corporation

All rights reserved.

462 Perry Highway, 2nd Floor

Pittsburgh, PA 15229

(412) 275-8002

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software