By Trevor Hofer
SALT LAKE CITY—Poor air quality has been an issue for citizens of Salt Lake City for many years. The time of year when air quality is at its worst is December through February. During this time, residents must deal with inversion. Weather Questions, a website states, “inversion acts like a lid, keeping normal convective overturning of the atmosphere from penetrating through the inversion.” This definition explains that inversion contains various air pollutants which cause bad air quality to stay trapped within the valley and breathed in by the population.
Although Salt Lake City’s air quality has improved, the air quality is still ranked as the sixth worst in the nation by the American Lung Association. The American Lung Association gave the Salt Lake Valley an “F” in both the amount of particulate pollution and in the ozone. The American Lung Association based their ranks on two factors, particulate pollution, and ozone. According to Dictionary.com particulate pollution is “pollution of an environment that consists of particles suspended in some medium… [it] is a mixture of solid and liquid droplets floating in the air.” Particulate can affect every person in Salt Lake City, but those at higher risk according to the National Park Service website are those with heart and lung diseases, diabetes, asthma, and children.
The other factor that the American Lung Association bases their rankings on is ozone. According to AirNow, ozone can either be good or bad depending on where it is located. “Good” ozone is found 6 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface where it protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Bad ozone is near ground level and forms “when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boiler, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight” creating bad breathing air. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that ozone has linked poor air quality to adverse health effects such as with some being chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, wheezing, and trouble breathing during outdoor activities and exercise.
Peter F. Vitiello, an assistant scientist in the Environmental Influences on Health and Diseases group who is also a member of the American Lung Association, stated that “poor air quality is hazardous and is something in which we should not take lightly.” Vitiello suggested that we should try to keep the environment healthy as we would want our health to be.” As mentioned, many factors play a part in the poor air quality that is affecting the residents in Salt Lake City. Liberation News states one of the primary sources causing a significant decrease in safe air quality is the five oil refineries owned by Chevron and Andeavor. Also, mining operations in Salt Lake City also attribute significantly to poor air quality.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) mission is “safeguarding and improving Utah’s air, land, and water through balanced regulation.” The DEQ has a department solely focused on Utah’s atmosphere and is continuously looking for ways they can improve the air quality of Utah. They also have many other apps where we can view how the air quality is today and have also set up a few regulations by which we should live. Some of these suggestions are to turn your key, be idle free, travel-wise, conserve energy and use a shovel rather than a snow blower. These are just a few suggestions by which we should live to improve our quality of air.
Beau Call from the DEQ said that “they have a rule called the water heater and they suggest that the water heater when you buy a new one should have low oxides of nitrogen level.” Call also stated that, “they have an Air Quality board which listens to the suggestions from the DEQ and decide if this is the best path for better and cleaner air.” They are also trying to put regulations on industries on how much they can produce. According to Call, “the major industry only attributes to 17 percent and cars produce 50 to 55 percent 25 to 30 percent are from buildings and homes. So the cars are the main issue; therefore, the newer cars are improving, and they are producing cleaner gas to minimize the pollution.” Call suggested that if we could use electric cars, it would vastly improve the air quality.
Salt Lake City has taken a few steps to improve the air quality and to lessen the carbon footprint. Liberation News claimed that the first step was back in the year 1999 where the first electric TRAX light rail line was made available to the residents of Salt Lake valley. The DEQ also has a few incentive programs and they will pay you to switch you to a new heating device that will be cleaner for the air quality; for example, if you have a wood stove. We have plenty of cleaner resources around us that we need to use rather than sit idly by. If we do these things that the DEQ has suggested, we will be able to create a better environment and we will be able to live healthier lives.