Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

American Lung Association 2017 State of the Air; Could hemp be PA next big crop?

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Apr 30, 2017 8:00 PM
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Smog in Donora, PA in 1948 (photo: Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

The American Lung Association recently released their 2017 State 0f the Air report evaluating air quality in communities across the country.  The findings demonstrate some promising trends.

The number of Americans regularly exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution has decreased by a quarter since 2012 and the successes linked to provisions in the Clean Air Act of 1963.

The report also raises some concerns; 40% of Americans live in areas with dangerous levels of ozone and particulate pollutions.  Southern California stands out as particularly unhealthy.

In our region, Lancaster County saw a passing grade for the first time in 18 years.  The Harrisburg-Lebanon-York metro region saw an improvement - from 9th to 22nd on the list of worst in the US for fine particle pollution.

Smart Talk breaks down the report to examine the source of the pollution and what can be done at home, in Harrisburg and in Washington to maintain clean, healthy air.


-          Kevin Stewart -  Director of Environmental Health, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic

-          Dr. Gisoo Ghaffari - allergy, asthma, immunology specialist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center;  board member, Pennsylvania Allergy & Asthma Association


Kevin Stewart - Director of Environmental Health, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic / Dr. Gisoo Ghaffari - allergy, asthma, immunology specialist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center; board member, Pennsylvania Allergy & Asthma Association


Also, industrial hemp cultivation has been illegal in the commonwealth since 1937. Late last year, State Agricultural Secretary Russell Redding signed off on a pilot program that will research hemp growth for commercial applications. This is not the smokable marijuana strain, but its impotent cousin with many practical uses.

Papers, rope, textiles and industrial lubricants are some products of hemp; hemp oil can be used for cooking.  Smart Talk examines Pennsylvania's policies towards hemp, what cultivation of the crop could contribute to the state's agricultural economy and why hemp carries the stigma that it does.


-           Shawn Patrick House - CEO, Lancaster Trading House, Inc.

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Shawn Patrick House



- How much is open burning a problem in our area?  Many rural areas still do not have (or do not enforce) any open burning regulations.  Where I live in Lancaster county I have seen everything from plastic ag film, console TV sets, rubber tires, rolls of fiberglass insulation, and regular household trash being burned.  Local authorities are often unwilling to stop these actions (including local fire companies - it was the fire company treasurer attempting to burn the insulation rolls).  I can often look out over the valley behind me and see a visible brown smog.                 - Lisa

-  I know many plants can actually clean up pollutants in the soil and water.  Are there any trees that can clean these particulates in the air?                   - KK

KEVIN STEWART ANSWERS:  You can't rely on plants - you have to go back to the source.         Using plants to scrub particulate pollution might work in a closed environment, but we don't live in a closed environment, we live in open spaces.

GISOO GHAFFARI:  Wind, rain and snow are the biggest scrubbers of particle pollutions.

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