Find alternative transportation to cut down on pollution

By By Liz Carlston

By Liz Carlston

You’ve probably had the experience of sitting behind a car at a red light that spews out a plume of smoke from its exhaust pipe when the light turns green. This form of pollution is one major contributor to Utah’s poor air quality.

According to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, ozone pollution is often a summertime phenomenon that occurs when natural ozone interacts with sunlight and byproducts of cars, refineries and other chemicals.

Although Utah as a whole has met the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, several counties, including Salt Lake County, have not achieved the ozone standard. According to the EPA, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and the Legislature have to submit a corrective course of action by March 12.

The Utah Office of Energy and Resource Planning reports that transportation accounts for nearly 30 percent of Utah’s air quality problems. Industrial operations take credit for 34 percent, and home and business heating emissions represent another 36 percent. Because a large chunk of air pollutants comes from cars, there are a couple of simple ways to alleviate the problem.

The first is to decide you will do your part to attack the issue. When can you ride TRAX instead of driving? When can you walk or ride a bike instead of taking your car?

Unhealthy ozone levels make it harder to breathe, particularly for the elderly, infants, people with asthma and others with lung diseases. However, ground-level ozone isn’t some terrible dark cloud that has to constantly hang over the valley. We can control these airborne pollutants by regularly getting our vehicles inspected and serviced. Well-maintained cars don’t puff out a brown-yellow haze.

Granted, Utah’s unique geographical makeup of the mountains, valley and extreme weather conditions contribute to bad air quality. There are also the vapors from industrial companies and the heating emissions from homes and businesses. But our own emissions aren’t beyond our control.

We can control the airborne toxins emitted by our cars by maintaining and limiting the use of our vehicles. Considering 30 percent of pollutants are auto emissions, imagine what a difference it would make if a significant portion of Utahns took that statement seriously. If you can walk to the store instead of driving, then walk. If you drive a clunker, be aware of the pollution you’re putting into the air if you ignore the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule just to save a few bucks.

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Liz Carlston