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Southwestern Pennsylvania Under Air Quality Action Day Tuesday

Pittsburgh skyline downtown monongahela river
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

It will be harder for some people to breathe Tuesday in the Pittsburgh region. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued a code orange air quality alert for the southwestern counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland.

An Air Quality Action Day alert is issued when the air quality index is forecast as code orange or code red. Tuesday’s air quality could be dangerous for those with respiratory problems or other vulnerabilities.

Young children, the elderly and those with conditions such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis should limit outdoor activities. All residents are encouraged to help reduce air pollution by:

  • Driving less by using public transportation or carpooling
  • Combining errands to reduce vehicle trips
  • Limiting engine idling
  • Refueling cars and trucks after dusk
  • Conserving electricity by setting air conditioning at a higher temperature and turning off lights that are not in use.

Similar air quality alerts have been issued for the southeastern portion of the state including: Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

“A combination of mostly sunny skies and high temperatures in the middle 90s will likely contribute to 8-hour average concentrations of ozone in the Code Orange range on Tuesday,” the agency said in the alert.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 92 degrees for Pittsburgh and similar temperatures for the surrounding areas.

The air quality action alert comes one day after the Allegheny County Health Department reported high particulate concentrations which began Sunday evening. “Allegheny County is experiencing high particulate concentrations since 11 PM — likely due to widespread Fourth of July fireworks and stagnant air/low winds,” the department said.

“The heat and humidity over the next few days can be dangerous to people and animals, so it is important that we all know how to take care of ourselves and those we care about,” Gov.Tom Wolf said in a statement Tuesday.

With high temperatures expected throughout the state, officials are reminding Pennsylvanians to look for signs of heat-related illnesses among young children, pets and the elderly.

The most common heat-related illnesses are heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Warning signs can include rapid pulse, throbbing headache, extreme body temperature, dizziness and confusion. Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, nausea or vomiting can indicate heat exhaustion.

Cooling centers typically relied on by the elderly may not be open today. Some have remained shuttered as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those looking for a place to cool off can contact their local area agency on aging for information about resources.

Those who can’t remain indoors Tuesday should drink plenty of water; avoid dehydrating drinks such as coffee, sugary drinks or alcohol; seek shade wherever possible; and wear sunscreen and light-colored clothing.

Kiley covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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