WHAT IS THE STATE OF AIR QUALITY IN UTAH?
Utah air quality hit an all-time low at the beginning of the new year. It is no secret that Utah air quality in the Greater Salt Lake area is some of the worst air in the country. On any given day in February you can check out air quality stats at airnow.gov and see the strikingly poor air quality that cities like Provo, Brigham City, Salt Lake and Ogden face compared to the majority of other U.S. cities. But those are not the only cities in Utah suffering from polluted air. Nearly every Utah city has ranked as “unhealthy” over the past years.
Why, you may ask? As Utahns, we know that our population does not necessarily cause more pollution than other regions of the country. The difference is the confluence of topographic and meteorological factors in our state. When we get an ugly (or even pretty) snow storm, snow is left on Wasatch valley floor. Next, warm high-pressure systems trap the cold air in the valley, creating the effect of a lid and trapping polluted air from car emissions and other pollutants from escaping the atmosphere. The result: a hazy smog that covers our valleys and essentially poisons the air that we breathe. This phenomena is what Utahns refer to as “the inversion” or more generally known as “the greenhouse effect”.
The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment organization has compared poor air quality on inversion days as unhealthy for the lungs as inhaling cigarette smoke. These conditions are detrimental to all people, but for individuals with asthma or other lung conditions, poor air quality can stand as a real threat to their overall daily health and well-being. Additionally, this poor air quality can cause various types of environmental damage over time such as acid rain.
Watch the video below from UCAIR to learn more about the state of Utah air quality:
WHAT IS THE STATE DOING ABOUT IT?
Most recently, the state of Utah has been pressured into a proactive stance on air quality maintenance as Utah residents exhibit more concern. Though measures are being taken to reduce emissions such as incentivizing the participation of Utah-based refineries to reduce emissions and the closure of a trash incinerator, there is an enormous list of measures that need to be taken as the state works towards better air quality.
Some Utah cities have created tools to help residents build lifestyle habits that will reduce air pollution. Provo City has created the Clean Air Tool Kit a website listing clean air ideas and resources, while counties in the Wasatch Front are working to pass a regulation to prohibit businesses from the use of cleaning solvents containing volatile organic compounds. All things considered, the reality of better air quality in Utah lies in the hands of its residents.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
So, it looks like the majority of work to be done is in our own hands. What can you do about it? An easy way to simplify your impact is to identify your emission-releasing activities. Most likely you can narrow your impact to two major elements of your lifestyle:
Your car is the number one contributor to Utah’s smoggy inversion and the reality is that you just have to drive less. Reducing your driving time in general is the best way you can overall lessen your emissions. Consider setting up a carpooling group at work or investing in a cleaner vehicle.
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There is a long road ahead of us before we reach optimal air quality standards in the state of Utah, but the first steps of that journey are the most important. Becoming consciously aware of air quality conditions and monitoring things like driving and energy consumption will have the greatest influence in building a healthier atmosphere for our communities here in Utah. Stay updated about Utah air conditions and participating organizations by visiting the following websites:
Travel Wise – http://travelwise.utah.gov/
Salt Lake City Green – http://www.slcgreen.com/
Utah Transit Authority – http://www.rideuta.com/