“The health of our families, especially our children, should be our number one priority. We can no longer allow Kennecott to pass their costs of doing business on to this community and sacrifice our health and quality of life in the process.” ~ Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air. Kennecott Utah Copper […]
How you can help in Utah
Our Utah chapter is recruiting moms — and dads — to marshal support for EPA’s crucial clean air standards. Join the force today for ways to help.
State of the air
- 4-8% of all Utah deaths are attributable to air pollution (about 1000 premature deaths along the Wasatch Front annually).
- Cities along the Wasatch Front and in Cache Valley are among the most polluted in the country for short-term particle pollution.
- Salt Lake, Provo and Logan consistently rank in the top ten U.S. cities for worst acute spikes in air pollution.
- Click here to view areas in Utah that do not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
- What grade did your county get? Click here to view the American Lung Association’s “State Of The Air” report card for Utah.
More on pollution in Utah
- Air pollution from vehicle emissions accounts for more than half of the air pollution along Utah’s Wasatch Front.
- Pollution in the form of Particulate Matter claims the lives of between 1,000 and 2,000 Utahns every year.
- The largest single source of air pollution in the urban Wasatch Front is Rio Tinto, emitting 10x more pollution overall than the next largest industrial source, the Chevron oil refinery.
- The combined Rio Tinto mining, power plant/tailings, and smelting operations release over 18,000 tons of air pollution per year. In addition, the mine by itself is the largest single source of particulate emissions (both PM10 and PM2.5) in the entire state.
- Click here for a list of things you can do to improve air quality in Utah.
- From Utah? Click here to check air quality conditions where you live.
Winter air pollution in Utah
While the air on the majority of winter days is healthy, each year Utah’s valleys experience days when the concentration of Particulate Matter (PM), a mixture of extremely small dust, soot and chemical particles, is elevated.
Utah has exceeded the federal health standards for two classifications of PM:
- PM10-which is 10 micrometers in diameter or less, about 1/7th the diameter of a human hair.
- PM2.5-measures 2.5 micrometers or less.
Winter PM comes from human-related sources. PM is a mixture of extremely small dust and soot as well as particles that form in the atmosphere as secondary pollutants under stagnant winter conditions. Secondary pollutants represent the majority of the PM observed on days that exceed the air quality standards. Soil, dust particles and certain metals are emitted directly into the air as PM by blowing dust from construction sites and agricultural activities, as well as combustion products from solid fuels such as fly ash (from power plants), carbon black (from automobiles and diesel engines) and soot (from fireplaces and wood stoves). Acids, heavy metals and reactive organic compounds can adhere to the PM and be deposited in the lungs.
Along the Wasatch Front, the effects of PM can be seen as the thick brownish haze trapped in the valleys during winter months.
The combination of PM pollution and certain weather patterns can create significant air quality problems. Surface inversions occur when warm air above cooler air acts like a lid, trapping the cooler air at the Earth’s surface. They normally weaken and disappear as the sun warms the surface during daylight hours, however, under certain meteorological conditions, such as a strong high pressure over the area, inversions can persist for days. As pollutants from vehicles, fireplaces, and industry are emitted into the air, the inversion traps these pollutants near the ground, leading to poor air quality.
Valley topography, low wintertime sun-angle, and snow covered ground also enhance the formation of inversions. Wasatch Front residents are accustomed to seeing periods of inversion during the winter months. Inversions typically linger until wind or a storm front comes through. The “typical” period is from a few days to a week, although there have occasionally been inversions which have lasted two to three weeks.
How is health impacted during times of high PM or inversions?
Both fine and coarse PM can accumulate in the respiratory system. Coarse PM can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma. Exposure to fine PM is associated with several serious health effects and people with existing heart or lunch disease–such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure–are at increased risk of premature death or admission to hospitals or emergency rooms.
When exposed to PM, children and people with existing lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or vigorously as they normally would, and they may experience symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. PM can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and can aggravate existing respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis, causing more use of medication and more doctor visits. If you have questions please contact your health care provider.
During the winter months, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality operates its “Red Light, Green Light” program to advise residents about wood burning and pollution.
- Under “Green” conditions, wood burning is allowed.
- Under “Yellow” conditions, pollution is building and residents are asked to voluntarily not burn wood and limit driving.
- Under “Red” conditions, pollution levels are unhealthy for sensitive groups and a mandatory no burn period goes into effect. Residents are also asked to reduce driving. The elderly, children or anyone with respiratory problems are advised to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.
Utah posts from our blog
On September 6th, I walked outside with my 2 year-old son to relish the feeling of being surrounded by a cloudy, misty early evening sky. It was like something one might see when hiking in high mountains, or on an incredibly foggy, wet day. One minute the skies were sunny and clear, and the next […]
During my first tabling event for Utah Moms for Clean Air a few years ago, I couldn't help but overhear talk about indoor air pollution. From lighting wood in our fireplace to burning candles in my home during the cold, winter months, I was shocked to learn how harmful both can be to my family's health. […]
This is a press release from Utah Moms for Clean Air: The American Lung Association just released their annual State of the Air Report and Utah once again earned an “F” grade for air quality in all of it’s major population centers across the state. Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber all received […]
A typical Earth Day celebration might entail planting a tree in your yard and teaching children about the importance of low-impact living by promoting the habits of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." But in Utah, the celebration of Earth Day has taken on a new spin, and it's anything but earth-friendly. Utah's Department of Oil, Gas and […]