Is Utah’s ozone violation getting worse?

A Salt Lake Tribune article reports that the EPA is likely to move Utah’s non-attainment status for ozone pollution from “moderate” to “serious.” It’s worth also noting that the EPA’s standards for ozone do not reflect the threats to public health as outlined in the majority of the medical literature. So we are in violation of a standard already set too low. 

Photo by E P Kosmicki.

Ozone is formed when heat and sunlight cause chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Levels are often higher in the summertime because of sun exposure and higher temperatures. 

Ozone’s health hazards are not only related to the lungs and respiratory disease, which are often the only health consequences mentioned in relation to ozone. Like particulate pollution (PM), ozone causes systemic inflammation and body wide organ dysfunction. The list of diseases ozone is connected to is almost as extensive as those connected to PM.  Air purifiers can capture much of the PM pollution, but unfortunately, not much of ozone pollution.

With such high levels for ozone pollution, Northern Utah will likely see more people showing up in the ER with strokes, or heart attacks, more stillbirths, miscarriages, cancer cases, and on, and on.

The state’s priorities don’t align with the publics on this issue. Rather than targeting polluters, they attempted to actually get the EPA to waive the standard for Utah. Rather than investing in and prioritizing mass transit, the state is approving highway expansions. We’re also seeing the rapid expansion of the Utah Inland Port across the state. A state putting so many residents at risk with extreme ozone pollution should not be tying its economy to diesel transportation. We saw state legislators pass a fee for residents with electric vehicles, actually de-incentivizing one of the few individual actions available to residents to reduce their own ozone impact. 

One of the best things to do is to call your legislators and express your concern about ozone pollution. Condemn their decisions that will increase ozone pollution, and encourage pollution reduction measures. On an individual level, fueling your vehicle in the evenings reduces the amount of ozone created. Switching from gas to electric lawn equipment also makes a big difference.