Critics Flunk Lobby Group’s Bogus Air Quality Report

Nearly 40,000 fitness enthusiasts enjoyed Pittsburgh’s annual marathon last month, with dozens of professional athletes and runners as old as 85 participating in the weekend-long event. Despite the marathon’s ranking as one of the best in the world due to its scenic routes and ideal conditions for distance running, the American Lung Association gave the city an “F” for its allegedly filthy air in its recently released 2015 “State of the Air” report.

Pittsburgh’s air has remarkably improved since 2011—the Allegheny Institute noted that fine particulate matter has dropped by 13 percent in the area, and in 2013, none of Allegheny County’s 11 air monitoring stations averaged pollution levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) standards.

Oddly, the Lung Association, which also uses EPA data for its report, smeared the entire Pittsburgh metro area—a three state, 12 county region—as one of the most polluted in the nation—a distinction the Association has repeatedly awarded to the city over the last several years. In order to get to this predictable conclusion, the Association relies on old pollution information and cherry-picks data to ensure the dirtiest possible readings for the city. The Allegheny Institute labeled the “bogus” report’s evidence as “junk science,” and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board noted just a few examples of the Association’s flawed methodology:

“[T]he association uses the reading of the single dirtiest pollution monitor to represent the air quality of the entire region. In Pittsburgh’s case, that is usually the monitor at Liberty, which measures the air near U.S. Steel’s Clairton coke works, one of the most polluted spots in the nation.

But the Liberty monitor’s readings do not reflect air quality across Allegheny County, let alone the other 11 counties, three of them in West Virginia and Ohio. For instance, eight monitors are situated across Allegheny County to measure fine particulate; three are placed in different locations to gather data on ozone. Overall, the 12 counties in the Pittsburgh metro have 20 pollution monitors, and none of them records the kind of readings taken near the nation’s largest coke plant.

Given this level of statistical malpractice, it scarcely matters that the lung association this year ranks the 12-county region as 10th most polluted in the nation for short-term particulate, ninth worst for year-round particulate and 21st worst for ozone. The truth is that only the region’s dirtiest monitor — one out of 20 — has those rankings against the dirtiest monitor of every other region.”

To read the rest of the editorial, click here.

To learn about the dubious science behind federal air pollution policy, click here.

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