Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-7-2021


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Environmental Science and Management (ESM)


Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Committee Chair

David Kahler

Committee Member

Valerie Smith

Committee Member

Skip Kingston


air pollution, particulate matter, pm2.5, pm10, no2, covid-19, coronavirus, lockdown, pittsburgh, allegheny county


Though the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has sickened millions of individuals, lockdown measures have provided a unique opportunity to analyze air pollution reductions. Reductions in air pollution are especially important in a city like Pittsburgh, where industrial activity has led to elevated levels of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter 2.5). The majority of this PM2.5 pollution comes from two industrial facilities, the Edgar Thomson Steel Works and the Clairton Coke Works. By utilizing a natural experiment, this study sought to determine how large of a role the COVID-19 lockdowns played in improving air quality in the Pittsburgh region. Data were obtained from the Allegheny County Health Department from monitors located in and around Pittsburgh.

According to these data, nitrogen dioxide (NO2)pollution significantly decreased during the lockdown period and PM10 pollution decreased at the majority of monitoring sites. Decreases in PM2.5 pollution were not as apparent, as significant results were only observed at half of the monitoring locations. The location which observed the most apparent significant decreases in PM2.5 pollution was located near the Clairton Coke Works. These decreases were likely a result of reduced coke production during the pandemic, as well as upgrades to emissions control devices that have decreased the facility’s emissions overtime. The results of this study suggest that industrial sources are a larger contributor of particulate matter than vehicular transportation in the city of Pittsburgh and that future air pollution reduction efforts should focus attention on lessening emissions at these large industrial facilities.