July 18, 2023

Tools to Monitor Harmful Air Quality Conditions in Pittsburgh

Air quality has emerged as one of the most prominent environmental aspects to monitor for daily health and wellness. Now there are many tools to help Pittsburgh families better protect themselves when air quality conditions are poor.

Understanding Pollution

Breathing in particle pollution from fine particulates (PM2.5) can increase the risk of health problems like heart disease and asthma. Fine particulates can come directly from a source, such as fire, construction sites, and smokestacks, or form in the atmosphere from pollutants emitted from power plants, automobiles, and industrial manufacturing.

How to Monitor Air Quality

Using the AirNow tool, residents of Pittsburgh can monitor the air quality in real-time  in their neighborhoods by simply typing in their zip code. The AirNow tool tells users how the air is in their current area based on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Quality Index, a six-tier, color-coded scale representing different levels of pollution. It’s measured from 0 to 500, and higher values indicate greater air pollution; anything above 100 is unhealthy.

Pittsburgh residents may also use the interactive map feature to get a closer look at the air quality activity in a specific area.

If it smells bad outside, it could mean that toxins are in the air. Report foul odors, and track other reports in the community with the Smell Pittsburgh app.

Stay Safe

If EPA’s Air Quality Index indicates unhealthy air, close windows, limit time outdoors, and run air filters to avoid the toxins. You may also elect to wear a mask or construct a DIY air purifier to protect yourself from inhaling pollutants and toxins.

Related Content & Resources


June 13, 2023

Air Quality Tips and Training Available for Families and Educators

To better protect adults and children during air quality alerts, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) and Environmental Health Capacity (EHC) Program are offering tips and training to help families and children stay healthy.

About Air Quality Dangers & Alerts

Current weather patterns are pushing smoke from wildfires in eastern Canada into communities across the Commonwealth, increasing the average concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air.

Air quality can affect your health, especially people who may be at greater risk, including:

  • people with heart disease
  • people with lung disease (including asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD])
  • older adults
  • children and teenagers (because their lungs are still developing, and they breathe more air relative to their size)
  • people who are pregnant
  • people who work outdoors

If you experience symptoms like trouble breathing or dizziness, you should seek medical attention. If you know a family member or neighbor who has one of the above conditions, remember to check in on them.

Tips from DHS

During air quality alerts, all Pennsylvanians should:

  • avoid strenuous outdoor activities
  • keep outdoor activities short
  • consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them

Additionally, to help keep particle pollution lower indoors during air quality alerts:

  • don’t use candles or smoke indoors
  • keep windows and doors closed
  • use an air filter in your home, if you have one
    • clean or replace filters according to manufacturer recommendations
    • make your own portable air cleaner, if you don’t have one (the EPA offers DIY information on how to do so)

Training from the EHC Program

The EHC Program invites child care professionals to participate in a short nano learning course on air quality.

About the EHC Program

The EHC Program is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded program under the Division of Environmental Health Epidemiology (DEHE) with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. EHC seeks to provide outreach and education on topics related to children’s environmental health.

About the Learning Course on Air Quality

The nano learning course should take a few minutes minutes to complete and provides an overview of what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index (AQI) is, why it is important, and how it can be included in your classroom plans and activities.

After completing the training, please complete a survey to inform future outreach efforts to childcare providers. The survey is a total of four questions. If you have comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact the EHC Program at

Access the Learning Course on Air Quality

Interested ECE educators can access the EHC Program learning course on air quality on YouTube.

Resources to Support the Course

Resources to support the learning course include:

Learn More

Visit to find the latest air quality levels and recommendations for your location.

To learn more, visit the Pennsylvania Key Tips or Pennsylvania Key Training webpages.


April 11, 2023

PA Department of Health Gauging Interest in Free Cleansing Device

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is currently evaluating air and surface cleaning devices and asking small businesses, nonprofits, child care providers, and similar organizations to express their interest in receiving such a device free of charge.

About DOH Cleansing Devices

These cleaning devices can eliminate viruses, bacteria, mold, and other pathogens from air and surfaces simultaneously. Free standing or wall-mounted, they utilize a standard outlet for power.

If funding is approved, DOH will purchase and distribute the devices, and two years of operational supplies, to interested Pennsylvania businesses and organizations at no cost to them.

Express Interest and Apply for a Device

All individuals interested in receiving a device must complete an application. NOTE: Completing an application does not guarantee a device.

At the moment, the application will only gauge interest in receiving a device. Should funding get approved, DOH will evaluate completed applications and award devices. DOH will award devices on a first come, first served basis, dependent upon:

  • the amount of available funding,
  • foot traffic at applicant facilities,
  • square footage of applicant facilities,
  • and COVID-19 risk.

Additionally, DOH will prioritize applicants with facilities in underserved communities.

Learn More

To learn more, visit the Pennsylvania Key website.


October 16, 2018

Making the Connection: Manganese Exposure and Children’s IQ

Manganese is an essential additive in the steel making process, with as much as 90% of manganese consumption worldwide being used by the steel industry alone. This presentation will highlight the links between manganese in air pollution to neurodevelopmental consequences, including lowered IQ in children.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Erin Haynes, will present her work studying two Appalachian communities in rural Ohio, followed by speakers from UPMC and GASP who will relate the subject to what’s happening in relation to Pittsburgh’s current steel industry.

This event is part of GASP’s Making the Connection series, intended for medical professionals as well as community members interested in learning more about the links between air pollution and various health problems. It will begin with an hour of networking and refreshments from 5pm-6pm outside of the Hutchinson and Hayashi Auditorium, before moving into the auditorium for the main program. Walk-in registration is welcomed. Online registration available. 

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