More than vehicles, oil refineries pollute Utah's air; new website offers info

Mar 12 2012 - 7:45pm


Utahns can now learn what -- other than cars -- causes the winter pollution that so concerns the Division of Air Quality.

Snowblowers, domestic animals, farm machinery, graphic art chemicals and deep-frying equipment also add to the pollutants in the air, according to a DAQ report released Monday.

The DAQ has created an Interactive Data Explorer website to give the public access to information about the sources of Utah's winter air pollution.

Click here to read the data on winter pollution.

By December, Utah has to develop a state implementation plan that will include how counties plan to reduce air pollution.

The mandate came from the Environmental Protection Agency three years ago after Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Weber, Salt Lake, Tooele and Utah counties failed to meet federal health standards.

The fine particulate pollution the EPA is concerned about can get trapped in the lungs, causing inflammation, and can be especially harmful to children and adults with asthma, according to a DAQ news release.

Not all air pollution is caused by large industry, such as oil refineries, or by vehicles, said Donna Kemp Spangler, DAQ communications director.

Residents can consider ways to reduce pollutants from other sources, even though vehicles contribute more than 50 percent to the air pollution, said Dave Spence, environmental health services division director with the Davis County Health Department.

Officials are focusing on 2.5-micrometer particulate matter, which are particles less than one-fortieth of the size of a human hair. It's those fine particulates that cause the health problems.

"It's not always the big sources you think of, like oil industry," Spence said.

Activities such as lawn mowing, weed trimming, farming, using pesticides or even deep-fat frying send chemicals into the air, he said. Those chemicals can attach themselves to other chemicals or react to other pollutants, making the air dirty, Spence said.

Every person "can do what you can do in your own unique situation" to reduce the air pollutants, said Louis Cooper, Weber-Morgan Health Department director of environmental health.

In 2011, Weber-Morgan Health Department distributed fliers to locations performing emissions tests, providing tips on how commuters can reduce their carbon footprint, Cooper said.

Those tips include carpooling, using mass transit and bicycling when possible.

"Everyone," Cooper said, "can help reduce the pollutants."

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