NEWS: Study: Utahns are still burning wood during inversions

By Emma Penrod
Salt Lake Tribune
Published April 24, 2017


New data from Utah’s Division of Air Quality suggest Utahns are ignoring the state’s mandatory no-burn days, when burning wood or other solid fuels such as coal is prohibited to protect air quality.

The findings have state officials looking for new and creative means of reinforcing the ban, but advocates say they’re at a loss for ideas in light of recently passed state laws that limit the scope of potential rules.

According to state scientists, wood smoke accounts for more than 16 percent of the particulate matter in Utah’s air on the average winter day.

The percentage of particulate matter coming from wood during inversions, when pollutants are prone to accumulate beneath the Wasatch Front’s temperature layers, can drop to as little as 6 percent because of the increased amounts of secondary PM2.5 — small particulates that form when other chemicals interact, as opposed to particulate released directly into the air.

But scientists found that the total amount of wood smoke in the air remains about the same.

“We know some people may not be complying with the ban,” said Nancy Daher, an environmental scientist with the Division of Air Quality (DAQ). But it’s unclear just how widespread the problem is.

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