OGDEN -- This time of year, many drivers leave their cars running to warm them up before going to work or school. This practice of idling isn't good for the environment or our health, and officials are campaigning hard against it.
The Weber-Morgan Health Department in conjunction with Ogden City is asking drivers to reduce vehicle idling and unnecessary driving during Idle-Free Week, which the city council and Mayor Mike Caldwell have declared Feb. 10-17. The health department will also take its Be Air Aware campaign to the public to increase awareness of air quality issues affecting the community.
"Air quality is an issue of major concern that ultimately affects everyone," said city council vice chair Caitlin Gochnour.
Louis Cooper, Weber-Morgan Health Department director of environment health, said while vehicles are cleaner than they were 10 years ago, emissions from them contain nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. These ingredients form particulate matter that lodge deep into the lungs, which can cause many people to become sick with respiratory illnesses or exacerbate conditions such as asthma or heart and lung problems.
"We're in a situation where we have an inversion based on our climate and where we're located," he said. "We're never going to get away from it, and when we add pollutants to the mix it just makes for a bad situation. Even though our vehicles are cleaner today, 52 percent of the particulates come from motor vehicles."
Although some idling situations can't be avoided, drivers can turn off their engines if they plan to stop for more than 30 seconds, such as at a drive-through bank, fast-food restaurant or pharmacy.
The city and health department are asking the public to do just that.
"If you are going out, try to do all of your errands in two or three stops then come home and turn the car off," Cooper said. "You will help to improve the air quality. It's hard to imagine me and my little car can cause such a problem, but more people are moving to the Wasatch Front and more cars are out there on the road."
Several communities are taking an initiative to promote air quality awareness. Weber State University will show an On Air engaged learning series focusing on the role of air and why it really matters. Two screenings of the film Idle Threat will be held Wednesday at noon in the Wildcat Theater and again at 6:30 p.m. in the Shepherd Union Building ballroom A. The public is invited.