UPHE warns of Great Salt Lake dust health impacts

UPHE’s president and co-founder, Dr. Brian Moench, warned of the health impacts if serious action isn’t taken to raise water levels in Great Salt Lake on Utah Public Radio last week. 

Air pollution is the number one environmental cause of human deaths contributing to four of the five leading causes of death which are heart disease, lung disease, strokes and cancer,” he explained. The dust pollution spreading from exposed lakebed is especially concerning. “In addition to the particulate matter in that cloud of free radicals, are neurotoxic and heavy metals, mercury, lead, cadmium…agricultural pesticides and even microorganisms, and some of their products like cyanotoxins,” Moench said on UPR. 

Antelope island, Great Salt Lake

We have multiple examples throughout history to look to for the result if we don’t act. Moench addressed one on UPR, “The Aral Sea tells us what may happen to the Wasatch Front. It was the fourth largest lake in the world in about 1960, and then all the water was diverted, so now it’s one tenth of its previous size. “Studies now show that virtually every day about 200,000 tons of toxic dust and salt are blown throughout the region. Life expectancy [of residents] has dropped 13 years.”

Many rejoiced in a wet winter and spring, as we saw Great Salt Lake levels rise and legislators sigh in relief. Scientists and experts were not as easily relieved, though. At this year’s People’s Great Salt Lake Summit, Bonnie Baxter, Director of Great Salt Lake Institute and Professor of Biology at Westminster College, expressed that it would take 11 years of equally impressive (record breaking) winters for Great Salt Lake to get where it needs to be

If you missed the People’s Great Salt Lake Summit, you can watch Dr. Baxter, Dr. Moench, and others in the plenary session here! 

Find Dr. Moench’s full UPR interview here.