So why do we care what the EPA’s changing regulations say? First, because pollution is harmful and public awareness of its levels and its sources is a good thing. Second, and this may explain the recent rush of government and business proclamations about air quality, if Utah continues to run afoul of federal regulations then we face the prospect of losing all federal transportation funding. There will be no federal money for new freeways or light rail trains, or any other new transportation project we currently rely upon the federal government to fund.
But regardless of funding or artificially inflated red air days, there are real health risks associated with poor air quality. There are numerous studies linking certain particulates in the air to a multitude of breathing and other health problems. So as responsible citizens it behooves us to identify these pollutants and reduce them where possible. However as in most things, identifying problems is fairly simple, while the policy prescriptions are much less so.
First, what’s causing the pollution? Again, surveys show that what many of us believe to be the culprit has less of an impact than we think. When we see pollution we often envision big industry with their huge smokestacks. While the Wasatch Front does have some industry (Kennecott Utah Copper mine, refineries, etc.), these sources only make up about 10 percent of the air pollution.
So who is the culprit? You and I and the cars we drive, with a little bit of home heating thrown in for good measure. Almost 60 percent of our air pollution comes from cars and trucks, or what’s called “mobile sources.” Another big polluter is wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Apparently, romantic fires, while awesome, are extremely dirty polluters.
Which of course brings up the question, if cars are the main polluters, and there are more cars on the road now than there were 20 years ago, how can total pollution be dropping?
Click here to read the rest of this article and see references at Utah Citizen Network.
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