An online community of nonprofit organizations in western PA

GASPing in Bad Air

When you think of environmental causes, what comes to mind?  Do you think of protecting clean water or endangered species, instituting better reuse and recycling programs, fighting for an end to our dependence on coal and oil, or advocating for social equity?  Many issues clamor for our time, attention, and concern. 

Perhaps you realize that defending clean air, an elemental necessity for life, connects us with every other environmental issue in the world, since we need to breathe to accomplish our environmental aspirations.  Or any other goal, for that matter.  The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) focuses on air quality and air pollution in the southwestern Pennsylvania region, striving to hold polluters accountable and to educate the public about how exposure to air pollution affects human health.   

Time and time again, industry shirks the laws, or the laws themselves are not strict enough to adequately protect citizens living in the region.  When your children develop asthma, or your relatives suffer from acute bronchitis, heart attack, stroke, or different forms of cancer, you begin to understand the value of clean air more clearly. 

While the legal issues require formal litigation, there are a number of GASP campaigns that directly engage individuals. 

Your participation is welcomed and encouraged: 

Athletes United for Healthy Air (AU):  Athletes exercising outdoors process several times more air than those at rest, and as a result, they take in more air pollution.  Become a member of the AU campaign and learn about ways to reduce your exposure.  As an AU member, GASP will alert you about AU events, such as the Side Street Strolls, which are educational walks that follow low-pollution routes through different neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. 

Smoke Readers Training:  GASP partners with a smoke reader training program to provide concerned citizens with the technical skill to monitor visible emissions in their neighborhood and region.  Once trained, smoke readers can observe and report on different pollution sites that may pose health risks to the community.  Reporting violations is an effective way to hold polluters accountable. 

Wood Smoke Pollution Awareness:  If you operate or live near an outdoor wood-fire boiler, chances are your exposure to carcinogens, particulate matter, and other toxins is higher than for the average individual.  Contact GASP to learn more about the newest state regulations for these wood-burning devices and how to burn wood cleanly and efficiently, to save money and to safeguard health. 

Marcellus Shale Gas Activism:  The gas production that has swept the state is notorious for its polluting effect on our water sources, but a little-known yet major component to this industry is its contribution to regional air pollution.  GASP partners with a number of environmental organizations to organize citizens for lobbying, rallies, letter-writing campaigns, and outreach events so that more people can become informed about the deleterious effects of weakly-regulated gas drilling. 

Diesel Pollution Awareness:  With education from GASP and other citizen groups, Pittsburgh Public Schools decided that 85-100% of the school buses in its fleets must be fitted with pollution control equipment by 2013-2014.  GASP also pushed for funding for retrofits that was made available through Allegheny County’s Clean Air Fund.  GASP is addressing construction vehicles as well, driving legislation demanding that a portion of construction equipment working on publicly-subsidized projects in the City of Pittsburgh be retrofitted with the Best Available Diesel Control Technology and use only ultra low sulfur fuel. 

GASPer Air Monitor Equipment:  A variety of school groups, community centers, and civic organizations borrow air monitoring equipment from GASP to design and carry out air quality measurement projects.  These educational tools help to identify “hot spots” for different forms of pollution, encouraging students and citizens to personally consider their exposure to pollution and how to mitigate that exposure, as well as to try out solutions. 

Receive GASP Alert email updates and our GASP Hotline periodical, via mail or email, when you sign up through our website at 

Getting involved and staying informed are simple to carry out but make the difference when it comes to protecting our air, our health, and our livelihood in SW PA. 

Lara Nagle is SCA Green Cities Fellow for GASP.  Please contact her with comments and questions at, or call 412-325-7382.

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