As the writer points out “Given Utah’s air pollution, is it any wonder the state’s cancer rates are so high?” air is a complex mixture, with many different components, but more perspective is needed.
Often overlooked is the role of naturally occurring sources, particularly ones with potential for higher and longer duration exposure in our homes. According to UDEQ, 1 in 3 homes that were tested in Utah have radon levels higher than what are considered safe for humans. Radon is measured in units called picocuries. Anything higher than 4 picocuries is not considered safe. The average radon level in Utah homes that have been tested was 5.3 picocuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Breathing in high radon levels over long periods can cause lung cancer, and radon causes over 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. (Radon awareness week is January 24-28, 2022).
As for other sources of emissions singled out, readers should know that more than 6 out of 10 commercial diesel trucks on the road in Utah today are 2011 and newer models equipped with advanced emissions control systems that reduce particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions to near zero levels. Utah ranks second nationwide in the number of new diesel trucks in operation; only Indiana has more. This year EPA is expected to propose and adopt even more stringent emissions standards that will start impacting new commercial trucks in about the next five years. Utah DEQ’s clean diesel program, funded at more than $9 million over the last five years, provides incentives for fleet owners to upgrade or replace their older higher-emitting equipment with newer and cleaner models.
Ultimately it takes a combination of government and individuals doing the best they can to reduce environmental health impacts of where we live and how we live.
Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director, Diesel Technology Forum, Frederick, Maryland