May 9, 2023 - News

Philly air is getting cleaner

Data: EPA; Note: A concentration below 12 micrograms per cubic meter is considered healthy; Chart: Axios Visuals

Air quality in the Philly metro — measured by fine particle pollution — has seen an improvement since 2012 and is the same as the national average.

Why it matters: Fine particles, generated from fossil fuel-burning and other sources, can make their way to the lungs or bloodstream and cause myriad health problems, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

  • They are linked to nearly 11,000 excess deaths across the U.S. annually, by one estimate.
  • Non-white and low-income Americans are at a higher risk of death from exposure to fine particle pollution compared to other groups, per a 2022 study published in Nature.

By the numbers: The three-year rolling annual average concentration of pollution across the region was 8.5 micrograms per cubic meter as of 2021 (the most recent data), compared to 10.5 in 2012.

  • That’s a 19% reduction.
  • Concentrations below 12 micrograms per cubic meter are considered healthy, the EPA says — though it is seeking to tighten that standard.

Flashback: The sudden 2019 closure of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philly helped our air quality.

  • The refinery (the largest on the East Coast) was considered the single largest contributor to toxic and hazardous air pollution in the city, per the University of Pennsylvania.

The former refinery site is being developed into the Bellwether District, a multi-billion dollar industrial and logistics area.

Data: EPA; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

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