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Air quality action days must prompt action

Downtown Butler as The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a code RED air quality alert for Thursday, June 28, 2023. A code RED air quality alert means that air pollution concentrations within the local region are unhealthful for the general population. Eagle file photo

It may not be quite as noticeable as last summer when a thick haze featuring Canadian wildfire smoke blanketed Butler County in late June 2023, but this summer, too, air quality here in Butler County hasn’t consistently been up to par.

Just earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection forecast a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day for ozone. The Monday alert included areas around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Susquehanna Valley and Lehigh Valley-Berks.

And while the poor air quality dissipated for the Pittsburgh region on Tuesday, it continued for other regions.

According to the DEP, Monday’s alert was issued as mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low- to mid-90s would create conditions for robust ozone development and formation into the code orange range during the afternoon hours.

To keep the air quality from worsening, the DEP urged residents and businesses within the area to “voluntarily help reduce air pollution” by conserving electricity by setting air conditioning to a higher temperature, combining errands to reduce vehicle trips, and refueling cars and trucks after dusk.

These actions, though seemingly insignificant on a small scale, can be great on a larger scale, and these actions are going to have to be taken seriously, sooner or later.

We have to take care of our planet every day — air quality action day or not. We can be more intentional about the steps we take in our every day lives, because poor air quality is a topic we’d like to avoid reporting on more and more.

If it sounds like you’ve heard this warning before, you have.

Last July, we took a similar stance as we reported on the lack of change as a visible haze settled over Butler County, making breathing difficult for many across the county. That haze was reported first in late June as Canadian wildfire smoke drifted across Butler County and prompted numerous air quality alerts.

This summer, amid the lack of Canadian wildfires, poor air quality isn’t quite so in your face. You may not have noticed the handful of air quality alerts that have been issued in the past few weeks, but they are being issued for a reason, and, without change, they will be issued more as air quality worsens.

— TL

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