Utah Gov’t Needs to Focus on the Real Public Health Crisis: Air Quality

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Four to eight percent of deaths along the Wasatch Front are attributed to air pollution. Utah’s air quality is associated with higher rates of breast, lung, cervical, brain, nasal, pharyngeal, liver and stomach cancer, as well as childhood leukemia and other childhood cancers. Poor air quality exposure has also been linked to autism, learning disabilities, metabolic disorders and is even declared by The World Health Organization as the most important environmental cause of cancer (even higher than secondhand smoke). In apparent ignorance of these alarming statistics, Governor Gary Herbert has declared pornography Utah’s “Public Health Crisis.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me? I am not here to have a debate over the morality or psychological health implications of pornography, but elected officials may want to redefine what constitutes a “Public Health Crisis.” Whether or not porn is negatively impacting our society may be a real issue, but to do relatively nothing in the 2016 legislative session to address an actual health crisis like air pollution and declare porn a “public health crisis” to gain accolades with conservative voters is asinine.

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In our 2016 legislative session, SB246 granted $53 million of taxpayer dollars to fund the Oakland Coal Export Terminal. Coal is a nefariously dirty form of energy, the use of which only increases our air pollution problem. Then the legislature failed to pass HB316, which would require building code updates to assist with combatting pollution. We also mustn’t forget SB80, which will grant hundreds of millions in sales tax revenue to fund water diversion projections. To cap off the session, air quality funding fell short, and the legislature concluded it couldn’t pay to replace dirty school buses, provide funding for cleaner infrastructure or give more incentives for businesses to implement clean energy practices.

Declaring porn a health crisis is nothing more than political rhetoric to gain party notoriety and brownie points with constituents. It’s time the legislature acknowledges our REAL health crisis and implements policies and penalties to address this seriously dangerous health concern that affects everyone. Masturbating is not a public health crisis. Dying from poor air quality is. Utah is definitely focusing on the wrong kind of dirty.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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