Utah’s air quality affects more people than you might think. Studies have shown that poor air quality can have serious side effects on the elderly, those with asthma and even children. Dr. Robert Paine, air quality specialist at the University of Utah, went so far as to say that children exposed to consistent, unhealthy air develop smaller lungs than those who live with cleaner air, leading to shorter life spans. “They end up having more heart attacks [and] more strokes,” he said, and they may “have some decay in intellectual function as they get older.”
Even in the short term, the Utah Department of Health has said that exposure to ozone can damage a child’s lung development. “Once the child reaches adulthood, [they] will experience decreasing lung function. Ozone can continue to damage the lungs even when there are no more noticeable symptoms present.
The point is, as bad as the air quality can be for us, it’s even worse for our kids. Not only has the presence of asthma doubled in the last 30 years, but it is the most chronic disease seen in children in Utah, with almost 8 percent of all kids suffering from it.
Combine these factors with the fact that children have undeveloped respiratory and immunologic systems and increased respiration in comparison to body size, and you start to see just how important our air quality is. Especially during periods of inversion, Utah’s air quality can go from good to dangerous in the blink of an eye, and it’s up to us to do all we can to keep our air clean and protect our children from the harmful effects of pollution.
What You Can Do
There are a lot of myths about Utah’s air quality, but one of the worst is that there’s nothing we can do to improve Utah’s air. In actuality, if all Utahns would work together, even small, simple changes would yield massive results for our quality of life. Here’s what you can do:
1. Change How You Travel
Vehicles are the biggest offenders when it comes to daily emissions. By using alternative travel options like riding transit or even carpooling, you can reduce your personal emissions and help every Utahn breathe easier.
2. Lower Your Thermostat
By turning your thermostat down just two degrees, you can save some money on your heating bill and reduce your emissions.
3. Be Idle Free
If you’re going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds in your car, throw it in park and turn it off. Idling vehicles contribute an unhealthy amount of emissions.
If your kids could do it themselves, there’s a good chance they’d make changes to their daily routine to improve our air quality. Unfortunately, they can’t, so it’s up to us to do everything we can to keep Utah’s air clean. Show your kids UCAIR about Utah’s air and learn more at UCAIR.org. Don’t worry, they’ll thank you later.