OGDEN -- Weber-Morgan Health Department is encouraging people to cut down on idling their vehicles when possible, especially when traveling in and out of Ogden Canyon.
Louis Cooper, environmental health director for the health department, said that, because of construction in the canyon, cars are lining up and sitting at stop lights longer than usual. All that idling is hurting the environment and possibly your health.
Cooper said while it isn't just a problem in the canyon, the canyon does make things worse. That's because the tight area allows the emissions to get trapped. Emissions produce nitrogen oxides and oxides of sulphur, and those produce particulate matter. Particulate matter can be large enough to be seen as smoke or soot, or can be too small to see with the naked eye.
"Any time you get particulates that are very small, like the ones floating around from the idling cars, you breathe them into your lungs and they don't come back out. They stay trapped there," Cooper said. "That's when it can start to affect your health."
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, health concerns from exposure to PM-10 include breathing and respiratory problems, cancer, lung tissue damage and premature death.
The elderly, children and people who have chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma are at higher risk of developing complications. The EPA also states acidic PM-10 is a big cause of reduced visibility and can damage human-made materials.
Cooper said the health department hopes people will take a few steps to reduce the problem, such as carpooling and taking the bus to ski resorts. In addition, if feasible, turn off your car if you're going to be sitting at a long light, such as the one going to and from the canyon. Cooper said some waits have been as long as 10 minutes.
"You can also take an alternate route, such as the North Ogden Divide and Trappers Loop," Cooper said. "With the new snow, we've had a bit of relief with some clean air, but high pressure is going to build up again and with it will come the inversion. We would just like to ask people to do what they can to help reduce problems as much as possible."