Utah is making progress on ozone pollution — but we still need to do more

May 2, 2018

When it’s cold, you can see the air pollution in Northern Utah.

When it’s hot, you can’t. Not always, anyway.

But it’s still there — and it poses a threat to our health.

Seven counties along the Wasatch Front and in the Uinta Basin exceed federal limits for ozone pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday.

 “Weber County’s summer smog declared in non-compliance for ozone pollution”

Because they exceeded the eight-hour, 70 parts per billion ozone standard in the Clean Air Act, they’re now considered marginal nonattainment areas.

Along the Wasatch Front, the designation applies to all or part of Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Toelle and Utah counties. It also covers parts of Uintah and Duchesne counties in the Uinta Basin.

Essentially, it means they’re got three years to clean up their act.

In a news release announcing the EPA decision, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality noted Tuesday, May 1, that the state had “narrowly missed compliance.”

As a result, Utah doesn’t need to submit a formal plan to reduce ozone pollution; it just needs to hit 70 ppb.

Utah is already close, the DEQ says.

“During the past year, Utah’s Air Quality Board acted on 14 rules limiting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) — one of the precursors to ozone formation,” the agency said in its news release. “Additionally, Tier 3 fuels will start being produced and sold in Utah, which will significantly reduce the amount of NOx in Utah’s air—the other precursor to ozone formation.”

Still, that doesn’t mean we can sit back and wait for ozone pollution to magically disappear.

Ozone forms when sunlight cooks VOCs and tailpipe emissions during the hottest part of a summer day. Exposure to ozone can aggravate asthma and lung diseases, possibly even causing permanent damage.

 “4 things to know about summer ozone pollution in Utah”

It’s hardest on children and teens, the elderly, those who work outdoors and people with chronic heart and breathing conditions.

During an ozone warning, even healthy Utahns need to stay indoors, said Donna Spangler, the DEQ’s spokeswoman.

“If you breathe (ozone) in persistently, it acts like a sunburn on the lungs. It can scar that tissue,” Spangler told Leia Larsen, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner.

How can you help reduce the number of ozone warnings this summer?

Carpool, suggests UCAIR, a statewide clean air partnership. Use mass transit. Consolidate your trips. Fuel up your vehicles after sunset. And avoid aerosol spray products, which contain VOCs.

Maybe you can’t always see ozone pollution. But it’s there, and during the summer it poses a threat to vulnerable Utahns.

We need to do everything possible to eliminate it.