Behind this winter’s worst inversion yet
Wasatch Front residents saw the worst inversion of the winter so far last weekend. The Salt Lake Tribune reported “By Friday afternoon, PM2.5 measurements were double the federal limit in Salt Lake City and climbing farther into the red. Conditions were even worse in the Cache Valley, where measurements reached 85 micrograms per cubic meter,” and urged residents to stay inside through the weekend until the blanket of pollution lifted.
While we live in a region geographically positioned to trap pollution, the situation is not completely out of our control. For example, vehicle emissions are one of the leading sources of PM2.5 in winter inversion. Diesel truck emissions are a huge portion of this, which is why stopping increased freight traffic in our neighborhoods is so important, and thousands have spoken out against projects to do so, such as the Utah Inland Port and the proposed warehouse district for Northpoint.
Below are a few simple ways to reduce your exposure to air pollution and minimize the impacts:
1. Don’t exercise outdoors, especially near traffic.
2. Use air purifiers with MERV ratings of 13 or higher, or true HEPA filters (even better, equal to MERV rating of 17-20). Air purifiers that also have activated carbon filters can also capture gases, like ozone and VOCs.
3. Use N95 masks if you have them.
4. Reduce sources of pollution inside your home. Avoid candles, use crock pots to cook if your stove is natural gas. Put on a sweater and turn down your furnace’s thermostat.
5. Use mass transit if possible (it’s free Feb. 12-21. Gov. Cox says it should be free all year, we agree).
6. Avoid freeways if you have to use your car. Freeways are major hotspots of ultrafine pollution, one of the worst types of pollution.
7. Wood burning creates the most toxic pollution the average person ever inhales. Avoid using fireplaces, wood stoves, or visiting restaurants that use a wood oven.
8. Anti-inflammatory medicine like aspirin, and a diet high in anti-oxidants, like fruits, vegetables, and chocolate (seriously), not vitamin supplements, can help reduce the inflammation from air pollution, which is the common denominator in pollution caused disease (Make sure you don’t have a contraindication to taking aspirin before you do that).
9. Remember that much of our air pollution is the consequence of failed public policy, brought to us by politicians that continue to prioritize the things they shouldn’t, and ignore what really matters. Their first obligation is to protect their constituents from harm, and everyone is harmed with these levels of air pollution.