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  • Jacob Sumner

Why Should You Care About Our Air?

By Jacob Sumner


Poor air quality in the Mon Valley has created unnecessary and unjust risks for residents of Clairton. Asthma rates in Clairton are nearly double those in Allegheny County as a whole ( “One Town”). Cancer rates for residents under 20 years old were 13% higher for Clairton residents than for average American from 2011-2015 (Marusic). The link between the polluted air and these health problems are well documented. The EPA has classified the emissions from coke ovens as ‘Group A’ pollutants – pollutants known to be capable of causing cancer in humans. These emissions have been linked to both kidney and lung cancer.

While major polluters in the area have made efforts to refine their manufacturing processes following public outcry and political pressure, residents of the Mon Valley continue to fear for the safety of themselves and their loved ones. U.S. Steel’s cancellation of a $1.5 billion project, aimed at upgrading three plants in Allegheny county, has further diminished the hopes of many of these residents.

The measures being taken by Allegheny County are not enough. Rather than dissuading further violations, the fines imposed on regional polluters have slowly become part of a dangerous pattern. Corporate giants, knowing that the fines will be nothing more than a “slap on the wrist”, often chalk them up as an operating expense and continue business as usual. U.S. Steel has already incurred nearly $600,000 in fines in the first six months of 2021 (see the notices given by Allegheny County below). These fines have been issued across five separate violations, some dating back to the second quarter of 2020.

We simply ask that you, the reader, share our message. We want our fight and the fight of these families to be known far and wide. If you can, take a moment to tell someone about our cause. As more people are made aware of these injustices, our group has more power to families and work towards a healthier Allegheny County. Thank you.


Works Cited

“Coke Oven Emissions Substance Information Sheet.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor,

“Coke Oven Emissions.” Environmental Protection Agency, Sept. 2016. (C6)

Frazier, Reid. “Group Worries That New Air Pollution Permit Could Allow Clairton Coke Works to Pollute More.” NPR, 22 Mar. 2021,


Frazier, Reid. “One Town's Decades Long Struggle For Cleaner Air.” NPR, NPR, 4 Jan. 2019,

Frazier, Reid. “U.S. Steel Cancels $1B Upgrade To Pittsburgh Plants.” 90.5 WESA, 30 Apr. 2021,

Grant, Julie. “Can a Town Prove That Its Health Problems Are Caused by Pollution?” The Allegheny Front, 2 June 2017,

Marusic, Kristina. “Kids in Southwestern Pennsylvania Are Exposed to Carcinogenic Coke Oven Emissions at Shockingly Higher Rates than the Rest of the Country.” EHN, EHN, 22 Apr. 2019,

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