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The Breathe Project: Heinz Endowments’ way of breathing life into local air clean-up efforts

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January19/ 2012

The Heinz Endowments hopes the Oct. 27 kickoff event for The Breathe Project “will increase the pace of air-quality improvement in the region beyond what anybody would have expected several years ago,” says spokesperson Doug Root.

For months now, the Endowments have been gathering information about the degree of air pollution in the local 10-county region, and enrolling about 40 partner organizations for an education, advocacy and clean-up effort, including corporations and industrial concerns, nonprofits, government agencies, health-care entities, foundations and universities. “We also have scores of individuals who have signed up,” Root reports. “We believe that the combination of organizational leadership and individual actions is really going to ramp this up in ways nobody has thought before.”

Tackling local air quality is a necessary task, as the Project website illustrates: During the last seven years, Pittsburgh has ranked among the five worst cities in the country for short-term pollution – topping the list in 2008 and 2009 – and among the ten worst for long-term pollution. Fine particulate matter, half of which stems from power plants, and ozone can cause respiratory problems, heart disease and even death. The site includes proposed solutions for people and businesses to undertake, but The Breathe Project aims to come up with more extensive and effective efforts.

The kickoff event will include announcements “of some pretty fantastic pieces that are in the works” to encourage more people and groups to join the Project, Root adds. “The best thing individuals can do would be to sign up to be a member of the coalition.”

Do Good:

•  RSVP to The Breath Project’s kickoff event, Oct. 27, 1-2 p.m., at the Children’s Museum

•  Sign up here to get regular updates from The Breathe Project. You can also join groups such as a mothers’ group sending representatives to the Allegheny County Board of health, or another group engaged in awareness-building demonstrations, via the Project’s Facebook page. Or add your own ideas and stories to the Project via its blog.

Writer: Marty Levine

Source: Doug Root: The Heinz Endowments

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