Utah now follows federal guidelines on bad-air days

Dec 17 2012 - 11:21pm



Utah's Division of Air Quality recently announced a new way to declare "red" and "yellow" bad-air days, which has the interesting result of fewer "red" days.

Are they kidding?

No. Utah now follows federal guidelines. Why a state where all things federal are evil follows federal guidelines boggles the mind, except of course that the federal guidelines mean fewer red days, which scare tourists away.

That's wrong. Take it from someone with lung issues.

My insurance company, which you all help fund, pays $250 a month to keep me breathing, and I'm just one of thousands with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, heart failure and all the other "bad air makes it worse" diseases.

The new scale has one flaw the old one had too: It assumes that, if the air is clean, you don't have to worry about getting the air dirty. Go ahead, burn wood, drive cars, fire up coal plants!

The division of Air Quality says it's trying to clean the air, but also just spent several years drawing up plans that everyone agrees were inadequate, so they were scrapped.

Now they'll spend more years because, darn it, they want to get this right!

Meanwhile, we're breathing that junk that, at any level, causes harm to you and your unborn babies.

This is not just someone's opinion.

Utah Physicians For A Healthy Environment has a website with peer-reviewed studies on how unhealthy air pollution is. The findings there should spur more urgency in the state's response.

You can see it at www.uphe.org:

* There is no safe level of exposure.

The website lists 98 studies showing air pollution causes increased arterial inflammation and heart ailments. In 2010 the American Heart Association published studies showing a 10 percent increase in deaths, "and a subsequent study suggests that number should be 14 percent."

That means between 1,000 and 2,000 Utahns die every year because of Utah's air pollution.

* 46 studies show air pollution "is associated with lower intelligence, poorer motor function, attention deficits and behavioral problems in children, decreased cognition in adults, higher rates of strokes, multiple sclerosis, autism, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases."

All nerve disorders are made worse. Particulate matter in air pollution absorbs neurotoxins that cause "oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, neuronal damage, cortical stress measured by EEG, enhancement of Alzheimer type-abnormal filamentous proteins," in children and adults, including the unborn.

* The unborn? Most frighteningly, air pollution causes damage to fetuses on the chromosomal level.

"Exposure even to brief episodes of pollution at critical stages in the development of the human embryo can cause a person to experience an increased likelihood of multiple chronic diseases including those of the heart, lungs, immune system and brain and even obesity, diabetes and cancer," the summary says.

"Air pollution breathed by a pregnant mother causes epigenetic changes in the womb, which is associated with higher rates of asthma and decreased lung function in those children five years later."

This last explains much.

My family moved to Utah in 1952 because the air in Muncie, Ind., where I was born, darn near killed my mother.

The family joke is that we moved to Utah for the clean air.

Utah could do more. It could mandate switching coal plants to natural gas, putting catalytic converters in restaurants to burn more cleanly and cost less. It could improve mass transit, cut highway speeds and raise the tax on gasoline to encourage thrift.

Propose any of these, people tut-tut about the cost. Never mind the cost of an extra couple thousand funerals a year. That, apparently, we can afford.

Instead Utah changes the rules so there are fewer "red" days.

Sorry folks, that does not make me breathe easier.

The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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