Why a clear sunny day may be full of “invisible pollution.”

Why a clear sunny day may be full of
“invisible pollution.”

Learn about ozone pollution and how you can take action. 

Summer V.S Winter pollution.

In winter, the air quality in Utah’s northern valleys regularly gains national recognition as some of the worst in the nation and world. This is due to a combination of our unique geography and human-made pollution from cars and other high emitting sources. This wintertime pollution is quite literally “in your face” and is thus on everyone’s radar. But another, more invisible type of air pollution plagues our summers–summertime ozone pollution.

What is Ozone?

Ozone is an odorless, colorless gas consisting of three oxygen molecules (O3). There is what we call “good ozone” and “bad ozone.”

Good Ozone is what we all learned about in Elementary school. It functions as a type of shield for our planet, guarding us against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation. You may have heard about the hole in the ozone and how hairspray contributed to the thinning of our much-needed protective layer. However, while still important, this ozone isn’t the one we are particularly worried about.

Bad ozone or “ozone pollution” is what many health professionals, scientists, and lawmakers across our state are particularly concerned about. This type of ozone is primarily a problem during the summer when reactions between NOx, VOCs, heat, and sunshine create an invisible pollution cocktail that builds up throughout the day. This ground-level pollution is damaging to our lungs and cardiovascular systems. It’s an invisible, odorless chemical, but being exposed to it is described as “receiving a sunburn on your lungs.” 

How Climate Change is making a stronger pollution cocktail...

This year Utah is projected to have one of the hottest and driest summers in our state’s history.  The more our climate continues to warm, the worse our air pollution will become – from increased wildfire smoke to the formation of ground-level ozone.

Gif source: New York Times 

Working together to reduce pollution.

This invisible pollution can seem daunting and might leave you wondering if there are actions you can take to help lower levels of ozone pollution. There are many ways to individually and collectively take action to reduce ozone pollution here in our state. 

Individual Action: One of the biggest ways to reduce air pollution and ozone, in particular, is to drive less. Vehicle exhaust contributes to a big portion of our ozone pollution. We encourage you to ride public transit, carpool, or use your car as little as possible if you can. You can take an extra step by ensuring that your home or building is updated with the best and most efficient appliances and building codes available. 

Giphy: intoaction

Giphy: Waze_Carpool

Collective Action: One thing we need to remember when it comes to individual action is that there are systemic flaws and institutions that may prevent everyone from being able to participate in individual actions, like depending less on your vehicle. To be blunt, Utah’s main form of transportation revolves around a car, and we need collective action to ensure that everyone has the ability to participate in individual action. This can take shape in civic engagement opportunities, such as attending city council meetings, talking to your lawmakers on both state and federal levels, and even running for an elected position. 

To learn more about civic engagement and how the legislative process works here in Utah, attend one of our Community Advocacy circles, where we create a space to organize and connect.