Help Utah’s Air

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A poor air quality sign is posted over a highway, in Salt Lake City encouraging drivers to improve Utah's air quality. Photo courtesy of Rick Bowmer.

A poor air quality sign is posted over a highway, in Salt Lake City encouraging drivers to improve Utah’s air quality. Photo courtesy of Rick Bowmer.

It is no secret that Utah has a problem with its air quality. The Salt Lake and Utah valleys have a significant problem because of the valleys’ specific topography – and it is not getting better.

Inversions, which are common in the winter, are caused by a dense layer of cold air becoming trapped under a layer of warm air. This is more common in Utah because the mountains surround the valleys, creating perfect circumstances for an inversion to occur. Inversions have been common since the 1840’s when the coal used to warm house produced smoke, causing inversions.

Although inversions are a natural phenomena, the pollution caused by an ever increasing population are harming the air quality more than usual. Throughout Utah, air pollution has reached alarmingly unhealthy levels, and transportation emissions are responsible for 50 percent of this air quality problem. Many Utah agencies have initiated programs to help clean up the air. Programs like the Clear the Air Challenge is one that is highly popular among residents. Tracking miles driven by carpooling or using a public transport rather than driving alone results in being entered to win prizes.

There are many ways Snow College students can help create better quality air for Utah. First, do not leave a car in idle, or turn it on early to just warm up. Another idea for car safety is to make sure the car is up to date on all safety and emissions tests. One thing that is often overlooked is the catalytic converter in cars. The purpose of this is to convert harmful exhaust emissions into more environmentally friendly ones before they exit the exhaust pipe.

Adjusting to Utah’s air quality can be difficult for out-of-state students to do, Alexa Sandlin is originally from Nevada and says “In Vegas we don’t really have [inversions] at all. When I went to Salt Lake for the first time I thought that was fog over the city and I was so shocked when they said it was the pollution/smog because I’ve like never seen that. The cities are completely different when it comes to that.”

April Carver, a student at Snow College who is originally from West Valley, said concerning the difference, “the air down here is noticeably different than back home, I feel healthier down here. There’s not as bad of an inversion.”

Although Sanpete County is in a much better position than most of Utah, there are still things that can be done to help it. Students must not idle their car, carpool, and conserve energy by turning off lights and unplugging appliances.

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