It’s that time of the year
As the holiday season approaches and winter sets in, residents of Utah’s valleys are once again facing a familiar foe—winter inversions. The picturesque landscapes of the state, known for their stunning beauty, are hazed by a seasonal phenomenon that impacts both the environment and public health. In this blog post, we’ll dive into how inversions are formed, their health implications, and the concerted efforts being made to mitigate their effects through effective policies.
What are inversions?
To understand inversions, we first need to understand the typical atmospheric conditions. Typically, warm air is closer to the Earth’s surface, while colder air resides higher up in the atmosphere. However, during winter inversions in Utah, this natural order is reversed. Cold air becomes trapped under a layer of warmth, creating a stagnant environment where fine particulate matter pollutants, such as PM2.5s, are trapped. As inversion persists, these pollutants concentrate in the air, affecting the health of everyone who breathes it in.
The Division of Air Quality has a daily forecast for air quality conditions in Cache, Carbon, Davis, Duchesne, Iron, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah, Uintah, Washington, and Weber/Box Elder counties. The Air Quality Index measures how unhealthy the air is at any given time and what groups should take precautions. View here.
Breathing in polluted air during inversion seasons can have severe health consequences. Fine particulate matter, consisting of small particles, can penetrate deep into the lungs, leading to respiratory issues, aggravated asthma, and other respiratory diseases. Vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions, are particularly at risk. The disparity in air pollution concentrations among different valleys in Utah raises concerns about equity, highlighting the need for targeted interventions.
The impact of inversions is not felt uniformly across Utah valleys. Certain areas bear a disproportionately higher burden of air pollution. Vulnerable communities, often located near major roadways, industrial zones, or areas with a higher density of buildings, are more susceptible to the negative effects of inversions. Addressing these disparities is crucial to ensuring all residents have equal access to clean air and a healthy environment.
Climate Change and Emissions:
While inversions are a natural phenomenon, human activities exacerbate their effects. Climate change contributes to the frequency and intensity of inversions, amplifying their impact on air quality. Vehicles, buildings, and industries are major contributors to the emissions that worsen inversions.
Policies for Air Quality Protection:
Recognizing the situation’s urgency, HEAL Utah is actively working to implement measures that protect air quality. Stricter emission standards for vehicles, incentives for cleaner industrial practices, and regulations to reduce building-related emissions are all on the agenda. These policies aim to mitigate the immediate effects of inversions and create a sustainable and healthy environment for future generations.
HEAL Utah has a history of impactful policy wins and a clear vision for future priorities aimed at safeguarding air quality. Some of their past successes include:
Collaborated with the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research to publish the eUtah report, outlining a path for the state to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Organized rallies to raise awareness about the importance of clean air and the need for collective action.
Encouraged public involvement, resulting in thousands of comments to the EPA, contributing to the push for Tier 3 fuel standards.
Successfully advocated for the passage of the “Not Stricter Than” bill, providing air quality regulators with more flexibility.
Released the Brown Sky Report, shedding light on Rocky Mountain Power’s energy mix and lobbying practices.
Engaged in ongoing efforts to tighten controls on Utah’s major coal power plants through the Regional Haze rule.
Played a key role in passing HCR007, Utah’s first Climate Resolution, recognizing climate change and committing to address it.
Submitted technical comments highlighting the weaknesses in the sustainability efforts outlined in the Inland Ports business plan.
Successfully halted a bill that would have increased registration fees on electric vehicles.
HEAL Utah is dedicated to advocating for expanded public transit infrastructure that is accessible and convenient for everyone. We also push for policies that incentivize retrofitting existing homes and integrating energy-saving features in future constructions. In the transportation sector, HEAL Utah supports measures such as stricter emission standards and incentives for electric vehicle infrastructure. Additionally, HEAL Utah remains committed to holding industries accountable by advocating for stronger environmental regulations and ensuring strict adherence to emission standards. These comprehensive policies demonstrate our commitment to creating a cleaner and healthier future.
As inversion season approaches Utah’s valleys, it’s important for residents to be aware of the environmental and health challenges that come with this annual pollution. By understanding the causes and consequences of inversions and supporting policies that address the root causes, we can work together towards cleaner air and a healthier future for all.