A new study casts doubt on whether Utah, or at least the Wasatch Front, is really a great place for children or not. Utah’s inversions are dangerous. Most people expect that a valley covered in black smut can’t be healthy. Recent reports legitimize that fear.
As Emma Penrod for The Tribune reported, a recent study showed that “Utah’s children are more likely to contract viral respiratory infections such as the flu and RSV after exposure to air pollution during the state’s infamous inversions.”
Respiratory infections like RSV are potentially fatal, especially for children who are already particularly susceptible to illness. Apart from the overwhelming medical costs, an RSV diagnosis can mean hospital stays, breathing tubes and exposure to other community-acquired illnesses, like pneumonia.
Despite efforts to curb pollutants during wintertime inversions, Penrod also reported that a separate report by the American Lung Association found that “Salt Lake City continues to climb a list ranking America’s most polluted cities.”
The American Lung Association report includes Provo and Orem in the Salt Lake City metro area, and numbers us the 18th most polluted city in America. Last year we were 20th.
The dirty air puts all Utahns at risk for asthma attacks, poor health and premature death. In fact, in yet another study, Penrod reported that “Utah is one of five states where more than 1 percent of lung cancers are likely caused by exposure to air pollution.”
The reports are piling up, and it doesn’t look good.
We’ve moved one spot better on a list of cities polluted by short-term spikes in particulate pollution. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deemed the Salt Lake metro area in violation of ozone federal standards earlier this year.
Ozone is particularly bad because it “can burn sensitive lung tissue when inhaled.” The damage is “permanent and cumulative.” Dangerous ozone levels are typically associated with auto emissions, and many Utahns are still failing to do even the simple things, like turning off an idling car while waiting for kids at school.
The kids have noticed. Students from Altara Elementary School attended a Sandy City Council meeting in February and wrote letters to the city’s mayor asking him to limit idling in their city. Their efforts succeeded, and Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn signed a new city ordinance Tuesday that prohibits car idling longer than one minute.
Sandy’s anti-idling ordinance is the strictest ordinance in the county, which includes four other municipalities that prohibit idling longer than two minutes.
For the health of our kids and ourselves, turning our idling cars off may not be enough.