Sunday , February 25, 2018 - 12:00 AM
If there’s one overriding memory I have from growing up in Northern Utah, it’s the air quality.
I remember when I was younger, the “fog” seemed magical to me. I would walk outside and the clouds would cover the ground and that’s all you could see.
Since then, each time those clouds cover the ground, it simply means that the “not-so-magical” inversion is back again, and I’m reminded of Utah’s continual poor air quality.
But why is our air quality still so bad?
During the winter months on the Wasatch Front, a weather inversion annually occurs, trapping emissions along the metropolitan valley and turning the air into some of the dirtiest in the country. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that Utah is the third most toxic state in the country and Salt Lake County is the second most toxic county in the country by more than 140 million pounds of dangerous toxins. The study also found that by 2016, 273 million pounds of toxic chemicals had been released into our air.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably not surprised by this information at all; bad air quality has become the norm in Utah. The visible pollutants are persistently created by vehicles, industrial factories and other natural sources. The vast majority of Utah’s emissions are linked to the Kennecott Copper Mine in the Oquirrh Mountains. More than 200 million pounds of hazardous materials, including lead and chlorine, are released as a result of the mine.
Exposure to this air pollution can cause various medical problems, such as pneumonia, heart disease, asthma and other cardiovascular diseases, all of which are dominant health issues in Utah.
Although the air quality is prone to be bad in Utah, we do have the ability to significantly reduce it.
There are many simple ways to positively impact Utah’s air quality, the most prominent of which involves avoiding traveling by car. Forty-seven percent of Utah’s air pollution comes from cars. Something as simple as carpooling with friends to the movie theater rather than meeting there separately can positively affect the air quality.
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Also, utilizing Utah’s public transit is an easy way to help reduce the harmful emissions being released by vehicles. The FrontRunner is a great and affordable way to travel to and from Salt Lake City. Consider hopping on the FrontRunner for the next concert or sporting event you attend to help Utah’s air.
Utah has undoubtedly experienced a warm winter this year, so consider lowering your thermostat as another way to reduce emissions. According to the National Park Service, turning your thermostat down 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and up 3 degrees in the summer will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 1,050 pounds per year. Not only will doing this reduce harmful emissions, but it will also lower your own monthly power bill.
Additionally, the University of Utah reports that driving idle-free would reduce car emissions immensely. It only takes around 30 seconds for your car’s engine to warm up. About 1.6 percent of all U.S. emissions are a result of idling, so turning off your car when it’s not being used will not only save you money but also improve the air quality.
There are many pieces of legislation addressing the air quality in Utah being proposed in this legislative session. Representative Patrice M. Arent, for instance, proposed the HB 101: Air Quality bill, targeting diesel emissions. The bill aims to extend emissions testing to diesel vehicles in Utah County, the only county along the Wasatch Front not testing diesels. A study by Breathe Utah found that doing so would reduce emissions by 170 tons per year.
Regardless of whether laws improving the quality of Utah’s air are passed or not, it is important to do what you can to prevent harmful emissions from being released into the air we breathe every day.
Doing simple things each day can reduce a slew of problems facing Utah. The roads would be safer to drive on during these months, risk of disease would lower and the beautiful night sky would be clear once again.
Jessica Wojciechowski is a junior at Clearfield High School. She is a black belt and is involved in many clubs. Email her at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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