Letter: Costs of controlling dust from Great Salt Lake are truly daunting

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dust obscures Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

Leia Larsen’s really excellent series on the Great Salt Lake is very necessary but this story should more directly address the costs of controlling the dust compared to the costs of not doing anything.

My fear is that the cost of controlling dust on an area many times larger than Owens Lake’s bed, will be so massive that the controlling won’t get done.

People making that decision need to know that not controlling that dust will have huge monetary costs in other places, such as medical problems.

As a lifelong sufferer of asthma, I can enumerate at least one of those: Relatively uncomplicated asthma costs about $300 a month to control, using a combination of steroid and rescue inhalers.

The Utah Department of Health says nine percent of Utahns now have asthma. The polluted air in the valley causes and aggravates it for many. What does this cost?

Nine percent of 3.3 million Utahns is roughly 300,000 people. If each of those spends $300 a month in insurance plus copays, that is $90 million a month, $1.08 Billion every year, spent on one problem that bad air makes worse.

That doesn’t include the cost of controlling more serious cases, nor lost work time, nor emergency rooms, nor funerals for the thousands who die from asthma every year.

And this is only one disease of many that the lake’s dust will make worse. How much worse? Will that cost double because of GSL’s drying lakebed? Triple?

Nobody knows. Double or triple $1.08 billion a year and, as someone once said, pretty soon you’re talking serious money that we all pay, in insurance premiums and copays.

And that’s only one cost of many. What will those add up to? I do not look forward to finding out.

Charles Trentelman, Ogden

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