29 January 2013
Salt Lake City Smog Approaches Beijing Levels
Posted by Dan Satterfield
Despite those ski resort images of a deep blue sky and wonderful white powder, the air just down the mountain from such ski resorts as Snowbird and Alta has been a rather toxic soup recently. Salt Lake City has endured yet another winter episode of smog that makes the view look more like Beijing than what you would normally picture for Utah. A group of physicians in the city spoke out this past week and said that something MUST be done.
Research into the reasons for the smog, and just what exactly it is made up, of has been underway for sometime. Bob Henson at the National Centers for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has a fascinating piece on it in ATMOS News as well this week. If you have any type of lung disorder you should think twice before moving to the Salt Lake Valley. Unless big steps are taken to remedy the problem, it will likely get worse in the coming years, although emission standards for automobiles may improve it some. Industrial factories and older vehicles (and especially trucks) are likely the main contributors.
I experienced one of these smog events in the Salt Lake Valley back in the early 1980’s. The situation has gotten steadily worse and the medical evidence is overwhelming that these pollution events can cause lasting damage. The question now is what will the state of Utah do about it.
We moved to Park City in the 80’s to get out of the SLC soup. I developed many odd allergies and my husbands asthma was awful in SLC. Sorry to see such a wonderful place having not resolving local pollution problems.
While, it is great that our air quality problem in Utah is getting attention, I feel that Mr. Satterfield’s title is a bit misleading. While the air quality in Utah has been very bad this January with PM2.5 levels topping 100-130 micrograms/m^3, we are not in the same league as Beijing who has been recording PM2.5 readings of 300-800 micrograms/m^3. So, yes, it has been bad here, but luckily NOT approaching Beijing levels!
The bad days in Salt Lake are now approaching an average winter day in Beijing but point well taken.