winter air pollution a serious problem, officials say
By Lukas Brinkerhoff
December 10, 2007 | LOGAN -- PM 2.5 is in our air at
levels that are close to being over the limits set by
the EPA. The problem is compounded by the winter cold
and weather inversions.
Logan City Councilman-elect Herm Olsen said, "During
January, February, and March we have a severe air quality
problem." The weather is stagnant and it is not improving.
Olsen said if it is left unattended the problem will
be out of control. He said this is a serious problem
that needs to be addressed.
Dr. Randy Martin of Utah State University said, "In
the Cache Valley we are on the cusp of becoming non-attainment
for PM2.5. That is we are about to exceed the National
Ambient Air Quality Standard for that pollutant." Currently
Cache Valley has the highest "design value" in the nation,
Grant Kofoed from the Bear River Health Department
(BRHD) said the fine particles settle in the lungs and
cause inflammation. A healthy person is not likely to
notice any effects, but asthmatics, children, and the
elderly can suffer from the pollution.
"People who suffer from asthma go for their inhalers
right away," Kofoed said. The pollution has been linked
to breathing ailments and cardiovascular problems.
Martin said, "Our studies have found that our PM2.5
is all ours, it doesn't come in from outside the Cache
Valley, and that the PM2.5 is statistically evenly spread
throughout the valley."
Twenty-six percent of the pollution is caused by small
vehicles, according to Cache County Executive Lynn Lemon.
The other major contributors are large vehicles and
gas fumes from gas stations lost during fueling. Lemon
said newer cars are less polluting and the county would
like to implement policies to promote getting rid of
older cars. Newer cars burn cleaner and therefore create
Lemon said the EPA had recommended not implementing
emissions inspections. He said he felt emissions inspections
place the burden on those who can least afford it. It
is the poor who drive older vehicles that would not
pass inspections and they would then be required to
install a catalytic converter costing upwards of $800.
This year the BRHD has a marketing campaign to educate
people on the benefits of staying inside during red
air days, Kofoed said. The emphasis this year is on
staying inside to protect your health. Kofoed said most
people don't realize that by entering a warm building
the PM 2.5 concentration significantly drops. He said
the health department was focusing on this new campaign
but would still be promoting traveling less miles to
help prevent the problem all together.
Olsen, who is a regular bicycle commuter, said he
loved the idea of bikes because they are good for the
"body political and the body personal." Bikes are a
wonderful way to address the situation individually
but Olsen said unfortunately there are people who cannot
ride bikes and it doesn't address the situation for
the entire valley.
"We need to strengthen the culture that it is OK to
ride the bus, that it is OK to plan your day around
the bus schedule," Olsen said.
Martin said, "Basically we as a population need to
recognize that we are all part of the problem and all
need to contribute to the solution. Sounds simplistic,
corny and unoriginal, but it is truly the path to the
Olsen said people can make differences everyday by
planning trips to coordinate with spouse's and children's
needs so that one trip can be made instead of three.
The community created the problem and now we need to
solve the problem as a community.
Olsen said air quality is a complex problem that is
going to take some real labor and effort to fix, and
if we don't, we, as a community, are consigning our
children to an unhealthy future.