What you don’t know can certainly harm you, especially when it comes to the air you breathe. That’s why Utah’s network of air-quality monitors is vital to citizens’ health – and why it’s so troubling that many of these monitors are outdated, damaged and obsolete.
“Monitors are the foundation of our air quality program,” Rep. Patrice Arent told the Deseret News. “It is the way we monitor impacts to public health and establish compliance.” Unfortunately, Arent said, about a third of the almost 200 monitors in the statewide network are in need of replacement. The urgency of the situation was underscored during this winter’s first inversion, when real-time pollution reports for Weber County were unavailable because of a malfunctioning monitor – a repeat of what had happened in other counties during last year’s inversion season.
So it’s not surprising that the Division of Air Quality has made its monitoring network a priority for this legislative session, requesting $1.3 million in one-time funding and $150,000 in ongoing funding. These appropriations would be used “to replace monitoring equipment past its useful life and expand the monitoring network to accommodate population growth in Iron County,” according to Scott Baird, legislative government affairs director for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. “New monitoring equipment will provide accurate and reliable air-quality data to help us make regulatory decisions based on sound science and provide the public with real-time information on current air-quality conditions.”
It’s a priority shared by elected officials such as Arent, who told the Deseret News, “I absolutely believe that air quality will be one of the most important issues this session. I know that from hearing from the public and by the polling that it is a serious concern.”
Polls do indicate that the citizens have made it a priority. In fact, according to the non-profit Utah Foundation, air quality ranks No. 2 among all issues important to Utahns and No. 1 among the Wasatch Front’s registered voters. Some respondents also took the time to describe how air pollution has affected their health, citing conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and even depression.
While we can all support the need to accurately monitor our air quality, there are times when we might feel the need to simply escape the inversion altogether. Is that even possible?
For a lucky contest winner, the answer will be a resounding yes. Alliance for a Better Utah is once again having its Escape the Inversion giveaway, this time offering a Feb. 24-28 getaway to Stoneridge Resort in Blanchard, Idaho. Enter here before the clock strikes midnight on Feb. 15, and you might win a chance to enjoy the resort’s pool, spa and recreation center, the natural beauty of Idaho and, above all, a chance to breathe freely.
*Photo credit to Sue Hensley