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Environment & Energy

Air Quality Action Day in Late October?

Pittsburghers unfortunately are used to Air Quality Action Days during the warm summer months—but in late October? The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) forecast a code orange Air Quality Action Day for fine particulate matter for today in the Liberty-Clairton area of Allegheny County.

"We issue air quality forecasts for ozone and particulate matter," said DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday. "The ozone forecasts are typically confined to May and the summer months.  Particulate matter forecasts rarely though can get forecast in the winter months, October, November, December and January."

The air quality forecasts only happen occasionally at this time of year in southwestern Pennsylvania, but according to Sunday when an action day is forecast, it's usually in the Liberty-Clairton area.

Sunday said the air quality forecast today for Clairton, Glassport, Liberty, Lincoln and Port Vue is due to the warm front in the Pittsburgh resulting in an unseasonably high temperature of 80 degrees and an inverted air layer.

"That essentially keeps the air very still and allows particulate matter that comes out of vehicles and electric generators and a number of other sources to accumulate in the air and we've seen that today," Sunday said.

He said fine particulate matter can get deep into the lungs and cause substantial health problems so the very young, the elderly and those with respiratory troubles should limit time outdoors.

Sunday urged residents to help reduce the fine particulates by "cutting down on gas-powered lawn equipment, making sure your fireplace is in good working order, and avoid burning any leaves as you do your fall raking."