SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – The Department of Environmental Quality issued a health alert and mandatory wood burning ban, Monday, as bad air settled in over the Salt Lake Valley.
Officials say sensitive groups like children and the elderly should be especially cautious this week, but even healthy members of the public may notice effects of the pollution.
“You may get burning eyes or itchy throat like you’re having a cold,” said Donna Kemp Spangler, spokesperson for the DEQ.
According to Spangler, some areas across the Wasatch Front will get into the orange air quality range, and the mucky mess will stick around until a storm system breaks it up, thanks to the mountain-valley topography.
“You have a layer of cold air beneath a layer of warm air, and it gets trapped. The pollution just stays there,” Spangler explained.
Spangler says the best way to improve conditions is for everyone to help out. She says there is no question, though, when it comes to Utahns’ improving conscientiousness about air quality.
“People are paying attention, whereas we never really used to before. It was almost accepted,” Spangler recalled.
Data shows the biggest polluters are cars, which is why the DEQ is asking drivers to be mindful this week. Spangler suggests carpooling, using public transit, driving your newest car, and trying not to idle for more than one minute.
Spangler says direct emitters like refineries account for just 11 percent of Utah’s pollution.
“We do also make sure they do their part as well,” she told Good 4 Utah’s Ali Monsen.
This week’s mandatory wood-burning ban is in effect for many areas across the Wasatch Front.
“It’s areas that are considered ‘non-attainment’ — that they don’t meet the federal air quality standards,” Spangler explained.
Spangler says the worst thing you can do is assume you can not do anything to help.
“Every little thing does matter, and it really takes a lot of us to think through that,” She said.
For more information on what you can do to promote clean air, go to UCAIR.org.