Salt Lake Valley west-siders bear the brunt of our bad air. Here’s how we will tell their stories as never before.

“Reaching for Air” will take deeper look at pollution and how it affects residents.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A plane flies into the Salt Lake City International Airport as inversion conditions settle into the valley, in February 2022.

The Salt Lake Valley’s west side has a lot going for it: a rich heritage, a diverse populace, savory ethnic eateries, thriving industries, proud neighborhoods and more.

Sadly, it also has the worst air in the state.

Salt Lake County received an F when graded for high ozone days by the American Lung Association, and air quality monitors frequently show the west side experiencing some of the worst hot spots.

The west side’s smog problems are exacerbated by a legacy of redlining that relegated a disproportionate presence of polluting industries to that part of the valley.

Many west-siders have a complex relationship with the air they breathe. With a looming inland port, which is expected to draw more truck and auto traffic along with highway expansions, the health disparities that the communities endure may grow even more dangerous.

The west side already has the worst asthma burdens in Utah, elevated serious health conditions and lower life expectancies, compared to the east bench.

Reaching for Air

The Salt Lake Tribune and KUER want to hear these stories from the residents most affected — in, say, West Valley City, Taylorsville, Magna, Kearns, West Jordan and the capital city’s west side.

The goal is to collect 100 first-person air pollution audio stories to combine with data for a “Reaching for Air” project. This multimedia piece is being funded by the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, a collaboration of Stanford University’s School of Engineering and the Columbia Journalism School.

If you live on the west side, take a minute to complete this short survey. Your information will help us get to your neighborhood and listen to your stories.

Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.