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Allegheny County Board of Health Greenlights $30K Clean Air Fund Request for Air Pollution Health Impacts Planning Study

The Allegheny County Board of Health on Wednesday unanimously voted to approve a $30,000 Clean Air Fund request to finance the development of a research study to measure the impact of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and other airborne pollutants on the health of Allegheny County residents.

Partners in the study include Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

The funding application noted the need for and importance of this project:

There is ongoing national debate about the current [air quality] standards as emerging evidence suggests that even at these [acceptable] levels, PM2.5 impacts short and long-term health. The impact of exposure to criteria pollutants below the [National Ambient Air Quality Standards] and exposure to H2S (currently a nuisance standard in PA) are not well studied. These [pollutants] will be the focus of the study but the team will consider if other pollutants should be included in the study.

GASP strongly supports this expenditure from the Clean Air Fund and looks forward to seeing the results when they are shared with the community.

When ACHD sought input on the proposal from the Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee on April 11, members narrowly voted to recommend that the Board of Health approve the project. 

Worth noting is that U.S. Steel Director of Reliability Centered Maintenance Mark Jeffrey voted no and Chip Babst, founding shareholder and chairman of law firm Babst Calland – frequent provider of defense counsel for U.S. Steel legal entanglements – abstained.

A quick word about the Clean Air Fund: It’s a specific pot of money that holds all fines and penalties received by the Air Quality Program. By regulation, this money must be spent on activities “related to the improvement of air quality within Allegheny County” and that “will increase or improve knowledge concerning air pollution, its causes, its effects, and the control thereof.”

While regulations also spell out potential uses of the fund, the department has the freedom to choose the projects and set related procedures. GASP has taken issue with both historically (see more on that here). 

GASP is following the issue closely and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Editor’s Note: Here’s what else happened at the meeting. Learn more about the health impacts associated with PM2.5, H2S, and SO2.

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Group Against Smog and Pollution