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Utah residents hold up signs at the 2014 Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment “Clean Air” rally. (Source: Dr. Howie Garber)

This Utah winter has been quite unusual. The warm weather and the absence of snow is enticing, making it an easy choice to go hiking, bicycling and even, for some, a motorcycle ride. However, just because the weather is warm doesn’t mean being outside is a healthy choice.

AirNow, a website that takes air quality data and translates it into numbers and colors to help people understand the health risks and when to take action to protect their health, indicates that Ogden is currently sitting at 70 on the air quality index. This means the air we are breathing is moderate, or in the yellow. Those who are unusually sensitive are advised to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion and watch for symptoms. For everyone else, it is relatively ok to be outside, but take it easy.

The Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, was a major shift of the federal government’s role in air quality control. In 1990, the Act was amended to include regulatory programs and organizations that control and monitor air quality, such as Acid Deposition Control, National Ambient Air Quality Standards and programs phasing out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer.

Although many national regulation are in place for the larger issues, we are still faced with layers of particulates plaguing our horizon in Utah, which means that we, the residents of this state, need to make a stronger effort to reduce our contribution to the problem.

According to Envision Utah, who’s mission is to “engage people to create and sustain communities that are beautiful, prosperous, healthy and neighborly for current and future residents,” 48 percent of Utah’s air pollution is from vehicle emissions. Working in conjunction with Governor Gary Herbert, Envision Utah has established a set of recommendations for government, businesses and individuals that, if followed, will reduce Utah’s air pollution significantly. Some of these recommendations include making all cars and fuel Tier 3 by 2050, which would reduce mobile emissions from our air by approximately 62 percent per day, to eliminate residential wood burning and to invest additional resources in public transportation.  

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Utah residents gathering at the state capitol building during the 2014 Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment “Clean Air” rally. (Source: Dr. Howie Garber)

Weber State University is continuously taking steps to establish a more sustainable campus and has set a goal to remove its carbon footprint by 2050. According to a 2014 study done by the WSU Energy and Sustainability office, more than 70 percent of students and 80 percent of faculty and staff commute to the Ogden campus in single-occupancy vehicles. Those numbers make it difficult to achieve a 2050 goal if those of us who utilize the campus are not participating in a solution to the problem.

In 2013, WSU took action by establishing an “Idle Free” policy to help reduce emissions on campus. There is signage placed throughout campus and environmental ambassadors in place to enforce the policy. To promote their efforts further, WSU has also provided a UTA Ed Pass for free to every student, faculty member and staff worker on campus. That’s right. It’s free. They have installed more bike racks and even have a 20 percent discount for parking passes for those driving fuel efficient cars.

Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment, Utah Moms for Clean Air, Clean Air Now and many others have organized a free event, “Clean air, No Excuses,” on January 31, from 1-2 p.m. at the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City. They are calling for major legislation to be passed to establish policies for cleaner air. The Signpost recommends riding the Frontrunner to the rally in support of cleaner air in Utah. However, if you miss it, be sure to read about it on our website and in next Monday’s issue.

It is time we take a stand against air pollution and work towards the best practices to help reduce our contribution to the pollution problem. Many of us at The Signpost are taking steps to reduce our contribution. What steps are you taking?

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