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Report shows air quality improving along Wasatch Front
by MELINDA WILLIAMS
May 07, 2014 | 1742 views | 0 0 comments | 81 81 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bountiful smog
Courtesy photo | Russ Biehn
Bountiful smog Courtesy photo | Russ Biehn
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CLEARFIELD — Davis County Health Department officials were surprised by a National Lung Association report that showed the Salt Lake area (including Davis County) has made some improvements in air quality.

“We feel good about the report,” said Dave Spence, director of the Davis County Health Department’s Environmental Health Services Division. “It’s nice to se there has been improvements.”

The American Lung Association released its State of the Air 2014 report last week, listing the Salt Lake-Provo-Orem area as number eight among the top 10 cities most polluted by short-term particulate pollution  (PM 2.5), giving it a “D” grade. The area received a “C” grade for ozone pollution.

In spite of the low grades, the report shows that in comparison to figures for 2000 Davis County had 3.5 fewer days of high PM2.5 readings in 2012 (the last year the report has figures for).

Those figures will likely change as  air pollution numbers for 2013 are considered, Spence said, because the winter of 2013 was particularly a bad year for inversion.

“PM 2.5 numbers are directly related to the weather,” Spence said. Drier winters tend to allow PM 2.5 to build in the valleys, creating the inversions the Wasatch Front is known for.

While the Wasatch Front is number eight on the short-term pollution (seasonal PM 2,5) list, most other cities on the list are in California and are also on the top 10 most ozone-polluted cities.

“I’d rather not be on that list,” Spence said. “They (the California cities listed) have pollution all year long.”

The report shows ozone pollution is also down in Davis County. Compared to 1996, The county had 11.4 fewer high ozone days in 2012, barely giving the county a passing grade, according to the report.

Ozone develops in the atmosphere from gases caused mainly by vehicles and industries, according to a lung association website, stateoftheair.org.

Here in Davis County, about half the pollution comes from automobiles and half from industries like those found in south Davis County, Spence said.

While environmental groups have taken on several industries in south Davis, Spence said there’s still much residents can do to help curb pollution.

“Every citizen has a chunk of the responsibility for that,” he said.

In spite of improvements  already made, the health department is focusing more of its efforts on air quality issues, after residents gave it a priority in the Community Health Status Assessment released last year.

Staff of the Environmental Health Division are monitoring air quality more and the division has upgraded the Bountiful monitoring station.

They are also going into schools to teach kids about the benefits of driving less and taking other measures to cut pollution, with the intent that the kids will take the ideas home to their parents, Spence said.

And they are encouraging residents to take public transportation.

Even though gasoline-powered vehicles are now inspected by private stations, the county still  oversees the program, ensuring inspections are done properly, and it still tests diesel-engine vehicles.

The association’s report shows that nearly half of Americans live in counties where ozone or particulate pollution makes the air unhealthy to breath.

But the report shows those numbers improving, not just in Utah but nationwide.

“We are happy to report continued reduction of year-round particle pollution across the nation, thanks to cleaner diesel fleets and cleaner power plants,” said Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. 

 “However, this improvement represents only a partial victory. We know that warmer temperatures increase risk for ozone pollution, so climate change sets the stage for tougher challenges to protect human health. We must meet these challenges head on to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of us –everyone in every family—have the right to healthy air.”

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