Utah is home to some of the most beautiful scenery, from tall mountains, to gorgeous hikes and lakes. The one thing, however, that Utah takes negative heat for is its poor air quality.

The metro areas of Salt Lake City, Provo, Orem and Logan are registered as the sixth and seventh most unhealthy cities to live in, courtesy of a study conducted by the American Lung Association.

Salt Lake City and Orem have both experienced more red and yellow days this year than the last four years. It has also seen the biggest decrease in air quality from 2012 to the present, according to Utah’s winter air quality alert program.

The air quality issue affects me personally, as I’ve suffered from whooping cough and chronic bronchitis. I get sick easily three times a month in the early and late months of the year. This is due to my poor immune system and our poor air quality.

Utah has a few resources and organizations set to help improve air quality, most notably UCAIR, or Utah Clean Air. UCAIR pushes for public transit to be more flexible and utilized, to make Utah idle-free, increase carpooling and encourage people to keep a lower thermostat.

While we have great partnerships and organizations within the state to help reduce the terrible emission levels, I personally feel like we can do more.

For starters, on days that it gets to be so bad that it is classified as a “red air day,” the state should offer free public transportation with UTA busses, Frontrunner and Trax. It would be a class act move from Utah, but it is something that I don’t see happening in the near future.

The next effective measure would be on a local level. UVU offers the option of parking or bus passes for $80. I personally don’t utilize either, as I don’t care to pay for parking, and $80 is steep for something that’s neither a priority nor as convenient.

As I have mentioned before, I think UVU should bite the bullet and pay for the student pass for students, like Weber does, or just incorporate it into our student fees, like the U does. I have interviewed students in the past and identified that 80 percent of those talked to don’t want to pay for the UTA pass. But if they had it for free, they would try to make using it more of a priority.

It’s not asking for a lot to have clean air to breathe when you go outside. It worries me for my little kids, and for others with kids. This air is worse than second hand smoke, according to Brian Moench, president of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Utah needs to step up and make this a public health crisis, not things like pornography, and start figuring out some solutions.

Jesse Sanchez
I kick ass and take names.