Utah is one of the prettiest states within the US. With five national parks, few states can beat Utah in shear beauty. With attractions such as the Pando Forest and the Arches, it is hard to beat such a diverse landscape. Cache Valley is one of many rural counties brimming with inspiring countryside. Even with all it’s beauty, Utah faces a glaring problem. The problem of smog, fog and poor air quality. The amount of pollution Cache Valley has in the winter is astonishing. Not only does it look bad, it also affects the health of its residence. Utah has six counties which have received an ‘F’ rating from the American Lung Association. Cache Valley being among them. This is large in part due to Utah’s unique topographical layout and cold winters.
Inversion is what keeps air pollution from dispersing in the atmosphere. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “an inversion acts as a cap on the upward movement of air from the layers below. As a result, convection produced by the heating of air from below is limited to levels below the inversion. Diffusion of dust, smoke, and other air pollutants is likewise limited”(). Inversions can happen in places where valleys and mountains are prevalent. If one looks at the topographical map of Utah, it is not surprising that inversion is a common occurrence. Besides the geographical challenges present, inversion is also tied to human interaction. Scientists track human involvement by measuring PM2.5. PM2.5 stands for particulate matter and the 2.5 relates to the diameter of the particle in micrometers. PM2.5 is largely responsible for Utah’s air pollution in the winter.
PM2.5 is the pollutant Utes should be most concerned about. According to Randy Martin and Roger Coulombe, professors of Civil and Environmental Engineering and toxicology, at Utah State University, “Breathing PM2.5 is associated with multiple serious health effects. Studies associate PM2.5 exposure with all-cause mortality, stroke, cancer, cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular disease, asthma, pneumonia, hypertensive disease, cardiac arrest, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism”. From 2015 to 2017, Logan has met the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter. While is seems heartening to know that our state met a federal standard, Professor Coulombe thinks otherwise. In an interview with HJ News, Professor Coulombe sayed, “When we’re at 35 micrograms, that’s like being in a household with someone who is smoking one pack of cigarettes a day”. PM2.5 has a real and discernible effect on the people of Utah. Coulombe estimates it costs us $25 million in health costs every winter.
Solutions to Utah’s pollution is simpler than most people think. The enactment of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards Program is considered the best solution to date. According to Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality, 48 percent of Utah’s PM2.5 is caused by automobiles. The UDEQ estimates that if every vehicle became tier 3, we will see a 70% reduction in directly emitted particulate matter compared to Tier 2 vehicles. We would also see a reduction in gasoline sulfur levels of 67 percent from Tier 2 levels. What is the catch to might ask? Are these tier 3 cars and gasoline going to cost me an arm and a leg? No. The difference between a tier 3 cars and their tier 2 counterparts is an extra $72 dollar to the cost of a catalytic converter. According to The American Automobile Association, top tier gas is said to cost an average of three cents more per gallon. So that means you pay around an extra 32 cents when you refill your 12 gallon car. If every car in Utah made these simple changes, we can expect to see a 40% drop in Utah’s air pollution. Drastically decreasing the prevalence of smog and making Utah cleaner and healthier for us and our posterity.
Supporting local initiatives can also make a sizable difference. Utah state legislators are currently supporting a “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free,” policy and Salt Lake City has enacted an ordinance that has made idling for longer than two minute illegal. Utah’s capital has also helped build bank drive-thrus, the airport pick-up zones and school loading zones. These initiatives have helped in the reduction of 6 billion gallons of gasoline each year that is caused by idling. Such initiatives in Logan would make sizeable impact on fuel consumption and pollution output. Establishing an idle car fine at the county level would be the first step at a legislative level. Following Salt Lake City’s example would be a great way to inspire other counties and cities throughout the state.
There are many solutions to limit pollution in Utah. Making eco-savvy purchases when it comes to cars has shown to make a sizable impact on the community. On polluted air days carpooling, taking the bus, biking or even walking makes a difference. As cliche as it sounds, awareness to the problem and making simple changes is the best way to solve this problem.

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