Thursday, January 24, 2013

Inversion Stifles Provo - What Can You Do?



If you've been thinking that the clouds of smog and haze around town have an unwholesome look to them, you’d be right. According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune as recently as January 21, Provo was ranked by the Environmental Protection Agency as the second worst air quality as a city in the nation, behind Logan.

This poor air quality is due to an inversion, a weather pattern that causes warm high pressure to seal cold polluted air into Utah’s high mountain valleys.

The smoggy air has us thinking about what can be done on a local level to help combat the emissions which contribute to the polluted soup that citizens endure every winter.

“The largest cities in Utah are, once again, experiencing the worst air quality in the country,” said Provo Council member Laura Cabanilla. “This has become an all too common part of the winter season and is becoming a genuine public health emergency. Scientific data reports that particulate pollution has already reached severe levels. Many people may not realize that they are suffering from the effects of pollution when they begin experiencing sore throats, watery eyes, and difficulty breathing -- they may believe they have the flu or a cold, when they are actually experiencing poor air quality.”

Cabanilla mentioned that there are several things individuals can do to help alleviate the effects of the inversion, or at least minimize a person’s everyday contribution to the haze. These ideas include not idling your car, carpooling and taking public transportation where possible, and not performing any exercise outdoors during the inversion. 

Provo city council has also been working on a bicycle master plan to increase the amount of bicycle path available in the city, which will have an added benefit of helping reduce emissions by encouraging people to drive less, and to increase awareness of how emissions can affect our immediate environment. The council hopes that measures similar to the bike master plan will encourage citizens to enjoy Provo’s outdoors, and also participate in lowering emissions which can lead to the pollution we experience every winter.

The city already has an established policy to prevent idling of vehicles, which can contribute to the poor air quality. You can read up more about it here, and another great resource is the Mayor’s post on this issue, which can be read here.

Let us know what you think! How do you think we can contribute locally to less emissions in an effective way?