Utah Valley’s dirty little secret and what you can do about it

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dirty little secret

Air quality comparison as seen from Provo, Utah. Photo courtesy Provo City. (Photo by Brian Nye)

Get the facts:

Salt Lake, Logan and the Orem-Provo area consistently rank in the 25 U.S. cities with worst spikes in air pollution list. Poor air quality has been linked to a higher risk of heart attacks, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, heart disease and lung disease. Air pollution may shorten the life spans of Utah Valley residents by about 2 years. Inversion alert days in Utah have steadily increased over the past 10 years. Cars are the biggest source of air pollution in Utah County. Before you go outside this winter, check the current air quality. *Facts provided by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment

On the road

  1. You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: carpool. It’s time to buddy-up with Bill from accounting and forge an otherwise unlikely friendship in the name of the environment. Your health (and ours) will thank you for it.
  2. Consider using Front Runner, which was recently extended in Utah County.
  3. Drive smarter. Keep your car well-tuned, your tires properly inflated and your air filter replaced regularly.
  4. When shopping for a new car, look for one that is fuel-efficient.
  5. Fill up your gas tank in the early evening and never top-off.
  6. Avoid drive-through lanes. That will help with your New Year’s Resolutions too.
  7. Traffic jams are breeding grounds for air pollution. Avoid them by listening to the radio or checking online for traffic jams, and adjust your commute accordingly.
  8. If you’re car is idling for more than 10 seconds, turn it off.
  9. Monitor your speed by accelerating gradually, obeying the speed limit and using cruise control on the highway.

At home

  1. Switch out your standard cleaning and painting products with non-toxic alternatives. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, make your own cleaning supplies.
  2. Throw away your aerosol hair spray and opt for non-spray alternatives.
  3. Use a good old-fashioned snow shovel instead of a snow blower. Bonus: Burn off mom’s figgy pudding and help the environment at the same time.
  4. Use energy-efficient appliances, home electronics and lighting.
  5. Conserve energy. Think keeping your lights off and only using appliances when absolutely necessary. See how much energy your home uses by clicking here.
  6. For real-time air quality info, download the new Utah Air app, available for both androids and iPhones.

At work

  1. Suggest a Rideshare program to your employer.
  2. Take advantage of tax credits by using alternatively-fueled vehicles.
  3. Implement an air pollution prevention plan. Conserving energy at work = reduced expenses and a safer workplace.
  4. Opt for an alternate work schedule to help reduce road congestion.
  5. Work from home once a week if that option is available to you.
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Kim calls Utah Valley home, but she spent her high school years in Australia, where she learned to drive on the other side of the road and tolerate Vegemite. Since earning an English degree at BYU, Kimberly has worked for Covenant Communications, Utah Valley Magazine, Daily Herald and Eat My Words. When she isn't writing, Kim loves traveling, teaching Pilates, and spending time with her husband and three children. Read more from Kim at talkingwordy.com.

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