air pollution

Creative Commons photo by Tim Brown, Infinite World

The American Lung Association released its annual report this week on the State of the Air across the country. The results for Utah are mixed.

Utah Department of Transportation

Utah’s smog season is underway. Some call it Utah’s overlooked pollution problem.

Michelle Hofmann, a pediatrician and founder of the health advocacy group Breathe Utah, is used to hearing people complain about sooty pollution in the winter. But she says it’s harder for patients to grasp the impacts of ground-level ozone pollution, since it’s odorless and colorless.

Courtesy Photo / University of Southern California

   

Researchers, regulators and clean-air advocates gathered Monday to talk about Utah’s air pollution woes.

Jonathan Samet, chairman of Preventative Medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, focused his keynote speech on what else decision-makers need to know to build on America’s progress in tackling pollution.

“Research is important,” Samet said after his talk, “and we need it to guide the policymakers, so we can focus in on those sources that may be most critical.”

Ryan Houston / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from the University of Utah suggests yet another link between pollution and health hazards: a correlation between dirty air and suicide that’s spurring even more questions.

Amanda Bakian, an assistant professor of psychiatry, says preliminary findings show more people commit suicide when nitrogen dioxide is elevated. And when is fine-particle pollution is elevated. But she notes the correlation is puzzling because the suicide-pollution link is strongest in the seasons when pollution is generally not that high, spring and fall.

Utah Department of Transportation

New clean fuel, clean car standards promise to be the single best way to clean up Utah’s air. State leaders say they want to accelerate these so-called Tier 3 rules in Utah. Yet, car buyers are already taking matters into their own hands, at the steering wheel.

Another air-scrubbing storm has just passed through Salt Lake City. But Tom Hemmersmeier is still thinking about clean cars.

Andrea Smardon

Entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers are joining forces Wednesday to solve air quality problems along the Wasatch front. The new Impact Hub Salt Lake is hosting what they call an innovation lab focused on finding air pollution solutions.

Andrea Smardon

Clean air advocates released their grades for Utah lawmakers Tuesday. Compared to past legislative sessions, lawmakers showed improvement, but advocates say there is still a lot of work to be done. 

Judy Fahys

  

  The Salt Lake Valley was choking with winter pollution as the Legislature convened in January. Lawmakers were compelled to step up to the challenge to clear the air.

Thousands of Utahns rallied for air pollution solutions outside the state Capitol the weekend before lawmakers settled in. No one could remember another time that so many people came together to demand a stop to the smog. Sara Baldwin Auck is an advocate for Utah Clean Energy.

Flickr Creative Commons

  A bill to reduce wood-stove soot in Utah’s high-pollution areas is headed to the Senate after receiving House approval Thursday. The bill would help fund programs to help people who rely on woodstoves alone to convert to cleaner home-heating alternatives.

Andrea Smardon

Small businesses now have access to funding that will help improve air quality. The UCAIR Air Assist program offers funds to small businesses to buy equipment upgrades that will reduce emissions. The first grant recipient is an auto body shop in Salt Lake City.

ACS Precision Finish is using about $15,000 of state money to upgrade from a solvent to a water-based paint system. Corey Kaggie, a painter in the shop, is dressed in a white protective body suit, goggles, and a face mask. She says the new paint certainly smells better.

Utah House lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow state-specific solutions to air pollution.

Republican Rep. Becky Edwards, R- North Salt Lake, has a bill to loosen a law that prevents state environmental rules from being stricter than federal ones. She says Utah knows how to clean up its air better than the federal government does.

“HB121 allows for local control to address our local needs,” says Edwards. “This is another example of how states are more effective and do things better than the federal one-size-fits all solutions.”

Utah Climate Center

    

Skies have been smog-free in northern Utah for the past few days. Now the Utah Climate Center says we can breathe easy for at least another week.

Judy Fahys

    

A sea of people swarmed Utah’s Capitol steps and south lawn Saturday. Thousands gathered for the Clean Air, No Excuses rally just above winter smog blanketing the valley. Brian Moench, a co-founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, told the demonstrators they have a right to clean air.

“This is your state,” said Moench. “What goes on in the building behind us is your government. The air you breathe is largely what you make of it, either by ignoring it, making it worse by neglect or by fighting to make it better.”

Thousands of Utahns say they plan to join a rally at the State Capitol Saturday. They want Governor Gary Herbert and the Legislature to do something immediately about poor air quality.

Salt Lake City folk singer Tom Bennett wrote his song, Governor We Cannot Breathe, to be performed at tomorrow’s Clean Air, No Excuses Rally.

Utah Foundation Releases Report on Air Quality

Jan 23, 2014

A new report tries to cut through some of the confusion surrounding Utah’s air-pollution problems. Shawn Teigen says he stepped back to take an impartial look at one of Utah’s most important issues. He’s a research analyst for the non-partisan Utah Foundation. His report released Thursday notes pollution has not trended up -- or down -- over the past 15 years. He’s found that smoke from solid-fuels like wood and coal is an unexpectedly big problem. He’s also learned that federal clean-vehicle, clean-fuel standards called Tier 3 will go a long way to clean up the air.

Lawmakers Unveil Air Quality Bills

Jan 22, 2014
Judy Fahys

A bipartisan caucus of Utah House members has unveiled a package of air-pollution bills. They say the proposals will Utah’s air easier to breathe. The measures include incentives for consumers to buy cleaner snow-blowers and weed whackers. There is one bill that would ban medical waste incinerators in the state. Another proposal would allow the state to authorize environmental regulations that are more rigorous than federal laws.

Flickr Creative Commons

University of Utah graduate students are developing a video game app to help Utahns better understand the connection between their actions and the dirty air. 

Kerry Kelly is Associate Director of the University of Utah’s program for Air Quality, Health and Society. She says her role is to make sure this game is backed up by scientific evidence. But here’s one of the ideas they’re considering:

Kerry Kelly / University of Utah Air Quality, Health and Society Program

The University of Utah has awarded six researchers grants to study the consequences of regional air pollution.  The seed grants, which total $165,000, are the first to come out of a new cross-disciplinary program focused on air quality.  

Andrea Smardon

Utah’s air quality issues became evident early this winter, and state lawmakers are working on a number of bills to address the problem. Most of them are focused on getting Utah citizens to change their behavior.

Air pollution was reportedly a hot topic at the most recent Utah Republican House caucus. But Republican Representative Jim Nielson of Bountiful says it’s not a partisan issue, and lawmakers have been working together to address it.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

The Utah Department of Health is doing a public health assessment in the North Salt Lake neighborhood near Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator. State officials say they are focused primarily on investigating levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the soil.

Amid public concern about air pollution generated by Stericycle’s North Salt Lake incinerator, two major hospital systems in Utah say they are reconsidering their processes for disposing of medical waste. Officials from University of Utah Health Sciences and Intermountain Healthcare say they are exploring their options, but are continuing to use Stericycle’s incinerator for the time being.

Andrea Smardon

As activists and community members step up the pressure to shut down a North Salt Lake medical waste incinerator, Stericycle officials are denying the company violated emissions limits or rigged stack test results. They are challenging a list of citations filed by Utah regulators against the company's incinerator. That means the beginning of a legal process that could take months.

Andrea Smardon

As angry residents continue to protest Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator and its toxic emissions, some local officials have been discussing the possibility of moving the plant to another location.

North Salt Lake Mayor Len Arave met with Stericycle’s  Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs earlier this week. He says he thinks the incinerator should find another home outside the city, and that Stericycle may be open to that possibility.

Photo courtesy Foxboro residents

Republican State Senator Todd Weiler of Woods Cross says he’s filing a bill to ban medical waste incineration in Utah. The announcement comes after Stericycle’s North Salt Lake incinerator allegedly exceeded its permitted levels of toxic pollutants and falsified its emissions tests. Nearby residents and environmental activists have called for the incinerator to be closed down. 

Andrea Smardon

Erin Brockovich and her team of environmental activists have made their presence known to North Salt Lake officials.  An investigator who works with Brockovich spoke to city councilors and the mayor Tuesday night, asking them to exert some local control and help protect citizens from the air pollution emitted by Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is turning her attention to North Salt Lake City. At the request of residents, Brockovich and her team have decided to conduct an independent investigation into air pollution violations by Stericycle and the company’s medical waste incinerator. Angry residents and activists are protesting in front of Stericycle Thursday evening demanding that Governor Gary Herbert shut it down.

Utah Clean Energy

Utah’s Public Service Commission is meeting at the Capitol this week to discuss options for improving air quality along the Wasatch Front through the use of alternative-energy vehicles.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature tasked the Public Service Commission to investigate how alternative-energy vehicles can improve air quality along the Wasatch Front. Kevin Emerson of Utah Clean Energy was at the first of this week’s hearings. He says electric vehicles are the best way to reduce emissions.

Andrea Smardon

Activist groups and North Salt Lake residents are planning another protest of Stericycle, a medical waste incinerator accused of violating pollution limits and falsifying emissions tests.  The event on August 15th is being planned after state regulators gave the company a second extension to decide if it will challenge the allegations against them.

arbyreed / Creative Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a settlement with Chevron. The company has agreed to pay a $384,000 penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its refinery in Salt Lake City.

Utah regulators are trying to educate people on the dangers of ozone, an invisible gas produced by smog that doctors say taxes the lungs of even healthy people.

The press conference took place under clear blue skies at a park in Woods Cross, with children playing nearby. It seemed like a nice day, but Director of the state’s Division of Air Quality Bryce Bird says ozone often goes overlooked because people can't see it.

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