Letter: Given Utah’s air pollution, is it any wonder the state’s cancer rates are so high?

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2018 photo, smokestacks near an oil refinery are seen in front of the Utah State Capitol as an inversion settles over Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Utah is one of the five states where more than 1% of lung cancers are caused by exposure to air pollution. Skin cancer rates in Utah are the highest in the U.S. But Utah is known for its low smoking rate, its active outdoor culture, and a significant religious population that doesn’t smoke, use alcohol, or even drink coffee. So why are we coming up in national discussions on cancer?

Growing evidence links cancer to environmental causes. Rising cancer incidence among children, among successive generations of adults, and rapid rates of increase in the immune system cannot solely be explained by genetics or individual choices. Something else is at play.

Utahns living along the Wasatch front are familiar with air pollution and winter inversions. Air holds carcinogens such as smoke, diesel exhaust and gasoline exhaust in our valleys and we breathe them in.

Salt Lake City ranked as the worst for air quality in the world last summer. Is it any wonder why our cancer rates are high, too?

It’s one thing to say that our environment causes cancer. But it’s another to examine why – and it is because our industries are polluting, and our government allows them to.

Audrey Meyer, Salt Lake City

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