The Invisible Threats

A Museum Exhibit about Air Quality

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Today's Air Quality

In Pittsburgh

What does it mean?


The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.

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The number in the middle refers to the concentration of PM2.5. It's atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. Fine particles can come from various sources, including power plants, transportation, wood burning etc. They may cause health problems like decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms, heart attacks etc.

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Humidity is the concentration of water vapour present in the air. Water vapour, the gaseous state of water, is generally invisible to the human eye. Humidity indicates the likelihood for precipitation, dew, or fog to be present. Higher humidity can increase the levels of noxious chemicals in the air, which may include ozone and formaldehyde.

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Today looks not bad, right?

But it hasn't always been like this...

In fact, Pittsburgh used to have such bad air in the 20th century that it was known as the “Smoky City” or “Hell With the Lid Off” due to the overwhelmingly foul conditions that plagued it for over a century.

Its geographic location and natural resource endowments made it an ideal home for the industries that inevitably created the pollution problem. The city’s dark past has been described as a cautionary tale for cities lacking environmental control.

And we STILL have
invisible air pollution

Pittsburgh is still consistently ranked in the top cities for air pollution by the American Lung Association in their State of the Air reports.

In 2016, the region landed as the 8th worst in the country for year-round measures on fine particle pollution (or soot), and the 14th worst for short-term particle pollution (the number of days with unhealthy particle levels when air quality is especially dangerous).

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Main Pollutant NOW:

PM2.5   AQI

O3   AQI


* Real-time data from The World Air Quality Project

These air pollutants are invisible to the naked eye.

Hover your mouse over the image to explore where they can be.

So...How can our actions change the air?

What can we do to make the air better?

Explore how the different actions will affect our air quality

These actions are on three levels: government, community, and individual.
Can you change the different actions to make Pittsburgh's air cleaner?

Policy on Industry Emission



Energy Source

Fossil Fuels



Private Cars

Public Transport

Wood Burning

More Burning

Less Burning





So what ACTIONS do you think you can take
to help reduce air pollution around us?

Share in the discussion down below!

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