Why air quality should be our next big public health focus in SLC

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(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) An inversion over Salt Lake Valley is seen looking west from Little Cottonwood Canyon, in this Dec. 4, 2019, file photo.

Every time Salt Lake City’s smog builds up and the smell of pollution fills the air, I think to myself, “I have got to move away from here.” But then on those beautiful clear days where you can see the mountains crisp and clear I am reminded how beautiful this city can be.

In all actuality, whether you can see the air pollution or not, Salt Lake City’s air ranks amongst the worst in the nation and has never met federal attainment levels for 24-hour ozone or PM2.5 pollution. These unhealthy levels have resulted in consistent “F” ratings according to IQAir.

What does this look like in the lives of real Salt Lake City residents? Research from University of Utah health concluded that pregnant women had a 16% higher risk of miscarriage following short-term exposure to elevated air pollution.

Brigham Young University researchers found that Utah air pollution reduces the average resident’s life anywhere from 1.1 to 3.5 years with 75% of Utahns losing 1 year of life or more and 23% losing 5 years or more.

MIT also found that there are nearly 450 deaths in Utah annually as a result of air pollution.

This does not include other health effects most residents will at one time or another experience, including irritation to the nose, throat, and eyes, coughing, wheezing, chest pain, heart arrhythmia, and shortness of breath.

Undoubtedly, SLC is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. Along with that growth comes increased air pollution. There are things we can do to help this city become more livable. Along with requesting to telework at home on poor air quality days and making the next vehicle you buy electric, the most effective thing we can do is with our vote.

Legislative measures that seek to grow the share of electric or low-emission vehicles, improve building efficiency, eliminate subsidies for oil and gas companies, expand alternative transportation, and shift towards cleaner energy sources will improve our air quality and therefore our quality of life. One thing that I have found as a bonus from the current pandemic is how the government has been able to come together and fight for our public health. Air quality is not just an environmental issue but more importantly one of public health. Salt Lake City’s residents demand action that saves our city from poor health, shortened life expectancy and degraded quality of life. Take action on air quality now.

Vanessa King, West Jordan

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