This past Winter was a brutal one when it comes to Utah pollution in Utah. According to http://airnow.gov this January, the Salt Lake City region had the most polluted air in the nation. The story about our air quality even made the New York Times. Dirty air threatens the incredible recreation and tourism that Utah is known for, as well as the health of its relatively young, healthy population.
The EPA measures pollutants including: ozone, particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. They rate these on a scale of 0-500. A “red” warning level, is anything about 151, but even with an orange alert (101-150) it can start hurting sensitive groups such as the elderly, infants, and those with respiratory problems.
However, you don’t have to be in those groups to be affected. Air pollution shortens the life of everyone along the Wasatch Front by 2 years. Though Utah’s smoking rate is one of the lowest in the country, every red day is akin to smoking a half a pack of cigarettes.
Part of the problem is caused by geography and the inversions it creates, there’s not a lot we can do to change that. Instead it has to be lowering emissions and addressing industry polluters. The problems air pollution causes and what we can begin to do about it is illustrated below. The message is clear: Utah’s air is not only dirty, it’s often unhealthy.
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