It would follow that once factories closed and steel mills were curtailed or closed that the area's air quality would improve.
So, it should be no surprise that the American Lung Association reports a bit of improvement in its "State of the Air" report for 2013.
The Weirton-Steubenville area moved from 12th worst air in terms of pollution to 22nd, tied with Wheeling.
The improvement includes a big step up for Hancock County, which earned an "A" grade, having no alert days for small-particle pollutants.
Jefferson County got a "B" overall, a "B" for ozone pollution and a "C" for 24-hour particle pollution. Its annual particle pollution was listed as a failing grade.
The report is encouraging in terms of public health, but it is but one of many reports that concern the area's air, and it reflects what other reports show.
Other studies still take on the region for mercury and other pollutants at the stacks of coal-fired power plants, as well as the output of one of the domestic steel industry's last coke plants, at Follansbee.
We can only wonder what future reports will hold as the gas drilling industry ramps up and downstream byproduct processing plants come on line.
Environmentalists have complained about air quality in areas of the West where drilling was the only heavy industry, such as Wyoming. Sublette County, Wyo., has a sparse population and earned an "F" for ozone pollution.
The area may one day again be on the front lines of the age-old industrial-era battle of productivity and jobs vs. pollutants.
But for now, a B is not so bad.