Worst dust in a decade

The dry lake bed of Sevier Lake is cited as a source of dust pollution. Photo by Paul VanDerWerf

What might seem a dystopian nightmare for some is becoming a regular reality for Utahns. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality issued a warning a few weeks ago cautioning against outdoor activity. Without urgent action, the Wasatch Front is becoming unlivable, especially for those with respiratory or heart conditions

Recent dust storms have surpassed those of the last ten years. A Salt Lake Tribune article, which quotes UPHE founder Dr. Brian Moench, explains why, and what to expect if we continue business as usual. Nearly half of the Great Salt Lake’s lakebed is exposed as water levels lower. Over time, as the lakebed gets drier, this will cause a drastic increase in dust pollution. The article cites other sources of dust, such as other dry lake beds across the state. 

“The Great Salt Lake also has accumulated pollutants from its growing population for more than a century. Its waters and lakebed sediment hold toxins like arsenic and mercury. Those contaminants could pose serious risk to people exposed to them over time. But, in the short term, breathing in any fine particulate dust blowing off the lakebed can cause immediate health issues” the Tribune writes of the health effects. 

“They get into the bloodstream, and we can measure if the body is still harboring these tiny particles three to four months later. Some may never go away,” said Dr. Brian Moench. “Even though the pollution is short-lived, the health consequences are not.”

Perhaps the most immediate and severe effects of the dust are the fatal car crashes they’re known to cause. The state needs to do everything in its power to mitigate this extremely serious threat facing Utahns. This includes developing responsibly, turning down project like the Utah Inland Port that drastically increase water consumption, and encouraging less grass and less beef that consume absurd amounts of water

Read the Tribune article here.