Breathe Easy?

October 3, 2011 | by Nathaniel Popkin

Baldwin Locomotive Works

Philadelphia’s air quality (amazingly about the national average) is about equal to that of Montreal and New Orleans, and is discernibly better than that of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and yes, St. Louis, according to a World Health Organization study released last week. (Of the MLB playoff cities, the air quality is best in Tampa Bay and Arlington, followed by Philadelphia.)

It might even improve if, as predicted, Sunoco and Conono-Phillips oil refineries on the Delaware close.

Clean air is, of course, deindustrialization’s pay-off, and thus a kind of double-edged sword. Even European cities that have preserved certain manufacturing sectors, have about twice amount of particulates in the air as Philadelphia (yes, it’s true.) The most polluted cities in the world are in Pakistan, Iran, India, and Mongolia. Chinese cities are 5-10 times more polluted than Philadelphia.


About the Author

Nathaniel Popkin Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."

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