Researchers Unite to Discuss Inversion Solutions

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(Photo by Chris Samuels)

By Christine Kannapel

(Photo by Chris Samuels)
(Photo by Chris Samuels)

 

Researchers and professors discussed possible solutions to Utah’s inversion problem on Tuesday.

Every winter, an inversion forms in Salt Lake City due to particulate matter from pollutants becoming trapped by the geographic shape of the valley. Since March 2013, the Utah Division of Air Quality and the U’s Program for Air Quality, Health and Society have met to discuss causes of the fine particulate matter exceeding levels that are safe for inhalation and to share solutions in bettering the winter inversions.

Kerry Kelly, the associate director for the Program for Air Quality, Health and Society, said the purpose behind the program each year is to actually form an action plan based on research.

“Our goal was to bring researchers together and facilitate collaboration to understand and address Utah’s unique air quality,” Kelly said. “The idea was not to look at them at a silent approach, but to bring engineering, atmospheric science and health science together.”

Kelly said the U’s partnership with the Division of Utah Air Quality, which is funded by the Utah Legislature, at the annual workshop has helped other researchers to understand Utah’s air quality and its health effects. The workshop not only presents the research done by the two programs, but also by undergraduate students, graduate students and members of the U’s faculty.

“People are very interested in this,” Kelly said. “When you advertise that you are working on air quality, you get a lot of interest and some high-quality candidates.”

This interest was evident at the workshop by the large number of audience members, speakers and posters on display. More than 200 people registered for this year’s workshop, while only 70 registered the year before. The interest, Kelly thinks, is high because the workshop is held just before the legislature meets to discuss the inversion.

Both Kelly and Donna Spangler, a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, look at the workshop as a way to unveil and spread the ideas behind the research. They hope to share the solutions with the public to see positive action, such as not idling one’s car and not burning wood fires.

“We know certain things that contribute to the air quality,” Spangler said. “It can be very technical, like the emission from automobiles that create the effect on particulate matter.”

Though the two departments are individual from one another, they work together when it comes to research. The air quality workshop is a product of that.

Highlights from this year’s workshop included the effect of the inversion on the elderly with pneumonia. The presentations can be found at www.airquality.utah.edu.

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@JulianneSkrivan