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Utah Air Quality 101 It’s Everybody’s Business

Utah’s Air Quality Issue

What We’re Up Against In order to effectively address the air quality issue, we must first understand the specific challenges we have in Utah, especially along the the Wasatch Front:

• T  he topography and seasonal weather conditions of the Salt Lake Valley region allow for the accumulation of emissions.

Air quality is a top concern for the citizens of Utah, and rightly so. The nature of Utah’s climate and geography creates high levels of air pollution for several days a year. Thanks to the work of many, Utah’s air quality is now better than it has been in decades. But in order to keep pace with our growing population and economy, we must press forward. It is our responsibility to reduce our impact on air quality through community efforts. We must promote behaviors and technologies that will protect our air quality for future generations. A common understanding of air quality causes, effects and improvement measures are the first steps toward becoming compliant with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards and improving our present and future air quality.

• T  he population of the Salt Lake Valley is expected to increase by 65 percent (1.4 million people) over the next 30 years. • A  ir quality chemistry is complex and impacts everyone. • T  he Salt Lake Valley is currently struggling to meet the EPA PM2.5 standards.


A Look Back Utahns have been on the forefront of addressing air quality concerns since as early as 1890 when an ordinance was first adopted to regulate the burning of soft coal. By proactively setting standards ahead of national regulations, Utah’s air quality has significantly improved with each decade despite the complexities of a growing economy and community.


The first anti-pollution ordinance was put in place, regulating burning of soft coal.

After extensive research at the University of Utah, residential furnaces were blamed for 75 percent of smoke. Air pollution started to become a primary concern.


States started regulating pollution, which led automakers to start reducing harmful emissions.

Why it Matters Air quality is more than just an issue of seeing clear skies. It affects our livelihoods and quality of life, with major implications for the future of Utah. Because this issue affects us all personally, it is everybody’s responsibility to learn how it affects you and what you can do about it.

Life Elevated

From the best slopes in the nation to the tremendous arches, Utah is known to visitors for its outdoor activities and beautiful landscapes. However, people who live here know that the state’s greatest asset is its vibrant quality of life. In order to continue enjoying Utah’s parks, communities and scenery we take such pride in, we have to keep our air clean.

Business Case

Utah’s air is better now than it has been in decades, but air quality remains a concern for business because of its importance to our economy. Poor air quality hinders corporate relocation efforts, increases health care costs, places Utah’s federal transportation funding at risk and puts additional regulatory burdens on businesses.

1970 Congress established the EPA and the original Clean Air Act was passed.


Utah is known nationally as having one of the best economies and as one of the best states for business. This favorable business environment makes us attractive to companies looking to relocate. Air quality, however, is one of the factors that companies look at when deciding where to expand. Despite the fact that our air is continually improving, businesses are still concerned that it detracts from our quality of life.

“Many businesses that consider coming here want to talk about quality of life. Clean air is very important for employee retention and for a corporate image–all things businesses consider when they decide to move here.” -Jeff Edwards

Employers must also consider what health ramifications poor air quality causes. According to Kaiser Permanente, employerpurchased health plans cover 61 percent of Utah’s insured population. Bad air quality can increase health care costs and ultimately affect a business’ bottom line.

President and CEO, Economic Development Corporation of Utah

Additionally, if we fall out of compliance, Utah is subject to having the EPA take over permits and compliance responsibilities that the Division of Air Quality currently handles. This would result in greater regulatory burdens and increased costs for business, potentially hurting our reputation as having one of the best business climates in the country. Clearly, clean air plays a part in our ability to recruit new companies and jobs to Utah.

The Utah Legislature passed the Utah Air Conservation Act to monitor and control air pollution in the state.

1980s Counties that did not pass air quality standards set by Utah legislation were required to start an inspection and maintenance program.



The EPA made significant amendments to the Clean Air Act.

The EPA lowered the PM2.5 standard from 65 micrograms per cubic meter to 35. This triggered nonattainment for most of the Wasatch Front and Cache County.

State of Growth As one of the fastest growing states, it is critical that we protect infrastructure funding. If Utah falls out of compliance with the EPA, we risk losing federal transportation funding or, at least, control of how we spend it. Thus far, Utah has done an impressive job of staying ahead of population growth, keeping commerce freely moving throughout Utah and avoiding gridlock on our freeways. Should we lose control over highway funding, we put this thoughtful planning at risk.

EPA’s Clean Air Act The Clean Air Act is a United States federal law designed to control air pollution on a national level. The EPA develops and enforces regulations that protect the general public from exposure to airborne contaminants hazardous to human health. The EPA has set national air quality standards for common air pollutants: • • •

Particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5) Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) Ozone (O3)

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) Carbon monoxide (CO2)

Particulate Matter Standards 3080 ug/m3 TSP

Breath of Fresh Air Pure air is a mixture of invisible and odorless gases. When pure air is tainted with other chemicals, such as PM2.5 or carbon monoxide, it may affect our health. It has been suggested that poor air quality is linked to asthma, seasonal sicknesses and even strokes and heart attacks.

• •

487 ug/m3 TSP 300

267 ug/m3 PM10






91.6 ug/m3 PM2.5





EPA Particulate Matter Standards



Peak Measurement for Salt Lake Valley

(TSP-260, PM10-150, PM2.5-65, PM2.5-35)

Source: Utah Department of Environmental Quality, 2010

Our Air Quality

Pollutants of most concern in Utah, many of which are regulated by the EPA.

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter (PM) is made of very small dust and soot particles. PM2.5 is the pollutant of greatest concern to Salt Lake Valley residents, along with PM10. Because of its size–about one-fortieth the size of a human hair–PM2.5 can become trapped in the lungs and exacerbate or cause health conditions. PM is likely to reach unhealthy levels on winter days with little wind when temperature inversions trap emissions in for days at a time.

Particulate Matter 2.5 Formation Primary Particulate

Secondary Particulate (Precursors) NOX

Nitrogen Oxides


Sulfer Oxides


Volitile Organic Compounds

NH 3


Area Sources

Causes PM2.5 is composed of both primary and secondary particulate. Primary particulate, which makes up 25 percent of the overall problem, is emitted directly from a source as soot. Secondary particulate, the majority of PM2.5, is created by a combination of precursor emissions that come from tailpipes, smokestacks and chemicals to form PM2.5 during atmospheric mixing. Major sources include power plants, automobiles, diesel engines, fireplaces, dust, construction, mining and agricultural activities.

Mobile Sources



Particulate Matter 2.5

Point Sources

Volatile Organic Compounds Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary, room-temperature conditions and are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Causes Although this is not an exhaustive list, some major sources include gasoline, paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, office equipment, adhesives, permanent markers, char broilers and yeast leaving products.

Sulfur Oxides &

Sulfur Dioxide

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a colorless, reactive gas and a secondary component of PM pollution. Causes Sulfur dioxide is produced when fuels containing sulfur are burned, such as coal and oil during metal smelting. Major sources include power plants and industrial boilers. Generally, the highest concentrations of sulfur dioxide are found near large industrial sources.

Nitrogen Oxides & Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen oxides (NOX) are highly reactive gases and are a major component of ground level ozone creation and PM. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is also linked with a number of adverse effects on the respiratory system. Causes NO2 forms quickly from any form of combustion, including emissions from vehicles, power plants and off-road equipment.


Let’s Make a Difference

Ground Level Ozone Formation

Tropospheric is known as ground level ozone or smog, but not to be confused with the ozone layer. Ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created from chemical reactions between oxides of NOX and VOCs. Ozone is likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in urban environments. Ozone can also be transported long distances by wind. For this reason, even rural areas can experience high ozone levels.

Changing the air quality scene in Utah will take a little bit of effort from everyone. Because area and mobile sources contribute the most to Utah air pollution, it is especially important for individuals, communities and businesses to join this effort. Take a look at how you can reduce your impact.



Causes Industrial facilities, electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOX and VOCs, which react in bright sunlight to create ground level ozone.

Volatile Organic Compounds Area Sources


Mobile Sources

Point Sources

Nitrogen Oxides

Lead Lead (Pb) is a metal found naturally in the environment and in manufactured products. Causes The major sources of lead emissions have historically been from fuels in vehicles and industrial sources.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas. Causes Carbon monoxide forms when the carbon in fuels does not completely burn. Vehicle exhaust contributes roughly 60 percent of all carbon monoxide emissions nationwide and up to 95 percent in cities. Other sources include fuel combustion in industrial processes and natural sources such as wildfires. Because of today’s cleaner burning automobiles, CO levels in Utah have not exceeded health limits for nearly 20 years.

O3 Ozone

Hazardous Air Pollutants

Hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) are chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health effects, such as birth defects or adverse environmental effects. These pollutants include benzene, methylene chloride, dioxin, asbestos, toluene and metals such as cadmium, mercury, chromium and lead compounds. Causes Most air toxins originate from human-made sources, including mobile sources (e.g., cars, trucks, buses), stationary sources (e.g., factories, refineries, power plants) and indoor sources (e.g., building materials and cleaning supplies).

“Clean air is important to all Utahns. We can all do our part to make our air better–in our homes, our vehicles and our businesses. Let’s make the air we breathe a priority.” -Jonathan Johnson President

PM2.5 Contributions by Source Salt Lake

Area Sources

Area sources are small industrial, commercial or residential establishments. These include small printing shops, restaurants, repair shops and gas stations, as well as personal activities such as house painting, solvent use and home heating. Take Action Individuals: • Convert wood-burning stoves and fireplaces with alternative heat solutions. • Conserve energy. • Keep tight lids on household VOC sources (e.g., paint, nail polish remover, cleaners). • Phase out pilot lights.

Business/Industry: • Reduce dust from earthwork activities. • Install high-efficiency filter devices. • Use low-VOC content solvents and products. • Use low sulfur fuels. • Use low NOX burners.

Mobile Sources


Mobile sources include on- and off-road vehicles, machinery, rail trains and garden equipment. Take Action Both businesses and individuals can apply these tips to reduce their environmental impact by driving less. • • • • • •

Trip chain by combining trips. Carpool. Telecommute. Work flexible hours to decrease congestion. Use public transportation. Drive alternative fuel vehicles.

• • • • •

Reduce idling and truck stop electrification. Reduce vehicle “cold starts.” Retrofit or replace diesel vehicles. Drive and refuel during cooler parts of the day. Keep vehicles well maintained.


Point Sources Point sources are large industrial and commercial facilities with 100 points of emissions per year or more. These include chemical plants, refineries, cement manufacturers, steel mills, surface coating operations and printing operations. Area Sources Mobile Sources Point Sources

Source: 2012 SIP Models

Take Action Business/Industry: • Install high-efficiency filter devices. • Implement fugitive dust controls. • Use low-VOC content solvents and products.

• • •

Use scrubbers. Replace coal and oil burning with alternative energy solutions. Use low sulfur fuels.

Resources Programs:


Clean Air Champions – This program highlights

Salt Lake Chamber – Utah’s largest statewide

Utah businesses that have committed to improve air quality.

business association that supports air quality initiatives while serving as a voice for the business community.

Utah Clean Air Partnership – A statewide effort,

Division of Air Quality – The government organization

backed by Governor Herbert, to encourage individuals, businesses and governments to improve air quality.

in charge of issuing construction permits, overseeing compliance and creating a statewide air quality plan.

TravelWise – A program that provides strategies and alternatives to driving alone.

Clear the Air Challenge – A month-long

competition, in partnership with TravelWise, giving Utahns the chance to reduce vehicle emissions and win prizes.

Idle Free Utah – A collaboration between government and private organizations to reduce vehicle idling across the state.


Wasatch Front Regional Council –

An association of five counties addressing transportation and air quality issues in the region.

Utah Transit Authority – The organization that runs Utah’s public transportation system.

Breathe Utah – This program addresses the

root causes of air pollution in Utah by engaging local communities, creating partnerships and fostering collaboration.


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