It seems the American Lung Association has declared Pittsburgh the #1 smokiest city this year, edging out Los Angeles by a nose...or perhaps a lung.
I saw this story in about five or six different websites today. Interestingly, only the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette attempted to defend the city and it's air quality, and understandably so given it is a Pittsburgh-based newspaper. They pointed out that most of the soot is centered around the Monongahela (c'mon say it with me, pronounced like it's spelled) valley and more specifically the Clairton Coke Works. Sounds kind of like doing an air quality study while holding your tester next to the tailpipe of a Dodge Powerstroke Diesel while it's running.
I've lived in this city for about 14 years now. The air is not pristine. It's not crystalline. But it ain't LA. I've been to LA, and I've seen the brown sky. Pittsburgh has crystal clear skies (on the occasion it's actually nice weather), and unless you live near the Clairton Coke Works, it ain't bad. The problem isn't soot. It's allergens.
I had a friend and coworker who lived here for a while, and he couldn't take the air quality due to his allergies. I remember once talking to him in my office, and suddenly hearing a loud "PSSSSSS...." sound, like someone had stuck a pair of scissors into a basketball. I asked what the heck that was, and he said, "that was my sinus".
He lives in Hood River now, and is much happier.
My family and I are perfectly happy with the air quality here, as long as we stay well stocked in Clariton, Sudaphed, and furniture dusters.