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Midvale Journal

Winter skies hold less pollution than 10 years ago

Nov 18, 2019 02:30PM ● By Erin Dixon

Vehicle emissions are one of the biggest contributors to airborne pollution. (Courtesy pixabay)

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

Winter is coming. With it comes trapped pollution.

Air pollution in the Salt Lake valley is a problem: an obvious statement. The good news is, it’s become less of a problem than it was in 2010.

In a presentation to the American Planners Association, Thom Carter, UCAIR (Utah Clean Air Partnership) executive director, stated that, “From 2002 to 2017, total emissions have dropped 38% despite the population increasing 34% during that same time period.”

Why is the air better? Because we discovered the primary culprits for pollution. Us.  

Fifty-two percent of Utah residents are now aware their own vehicles are the biggest contributor, whereas six years ago 56% thought mines, refineries and other industries were at fault. 

Because residents see themselves as responsible, many are making efforts to change their habits.

Taking public transit instead of driving alone is one of the biggest changes people are making. 

“With 50% of pollution coming from our tailpipes, not idling, reducing cold starts, taking transit, carpooling are most beneficial to reducing or impact on air quality,” Carter said. 

Another major contributor to pollution is old appliances. 

“Changing out a traditional water heater to an ultra-low NOx water heater can make a big difference. Experts at the Department of Environmental Quality tell us that nitrous oxide or NOx is a precursor of PM2.5 (Particulate Matter 2.5 micrometers)…When a homeowner switches to an ultra-low NOx water heater, it reduces NOx emissions by 75%,” Carter said. 

There’s even a way to save yourself cash and reduce pollution; turn your furnace down by two degrees. 

“Regarding thermostats, we know that people are turning down their thermostats to save money and help air quality…This 2 degree difference can save 1 ton in CO2. The average family emits 25 tons of CO2 emissions per year,” Carter said. 

However, if any of these small efforts stopped, pollution would again skyrocket.