Finding solutions for the pollution

Reading Time: 3 minutes Students can use a UVU Bus pass to help in the struggle against pollution and poor health conditions.

Reading Time: 3 minutes
During the winter months, the Wasatch Front suffers noticeably from excessive air pollution. Every winter, local inhabitants suck down high levels of PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less), carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. The pollutants are trapped close to the ground by means of air inversion, which is when a layer of warm air moves in over a layer of colder air and traps that colder air beneath it. The pollution then builds up in this virtually immobile air pocket, and the surrounding mountains act as a tea-cup, preventing the colder, polluted air from cycling out.

These pollutants put us at a high risk of health issues, including heart problems and stroke and have influenced the recent high rates of asthma among Utah residents. According to Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality, the pollutants also reduce the proper functioning of the body’s immunities to bacteria and viruses.

According to the DEQ, 60 percent of particulate matter, 70 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 30 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions come from vehicles, and the remaining 70 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions can be attributed to industrial plants.

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 1.02.29 PM“It is insane for us to sacrifice health to transportation,” said Machiel Van Frankenhuijsen, an associate professor in the UVU Mathematics department. Frankenhuijsen referred to the issue as “outrageous,” suggesting that we should “close the freeway for cars and allow only public transportation,” in order to prevent or reduce the levels of pollution.

“I’ve noticed that I get watery eyes and a stuffy nose during the inversions,” he said, and he’s not the only one.

“The inversions make me sad and I think we can at least try to reverse them,” said Julie, a senior majoring in Deaf-Studies who notices that she finds it difficult to breathe and catch her breath during the polluted winter months. She suggests that, “we should use more public transportation and ride bikes,” something any or all of us could do year round to lower pollution levels and raise the bar on health conditions.

Emily Newell, a Dance Education major in her senior year says that the inversion is “a problem that affects us here in Utah pretty dramatically.” She notes that the inversion makes it harder to breathe because of the thickness of the air.

“I know that no-burn laws were put in place to reduce the pollutants,” Newell said, “but I don’t think we’re really doing enough, and there are definitely things we could do in addition to no-burn laws, although it’s difficult to know what the solutions would be.”

It’s pretty clear that many students notice the difference in our health conditions when pollution builds up during these air inversions, so why do so many of us still jump into our cars in the mornings instead of using public transportation? Public transportation has been made easier than ever by the December 2012 introduction of the Front Runner, which runs back and forth between Provo and Pleasant View.

While vehicle use is not the only cause we need to examine in our attempts to reverse the growing rates of pollution. It is certainly the number one cause that we as a community can face together through our own choice of actions.

While public transportation takes up more time and often doesn’t stop terribly close to home, any decision to put down the keys and let someone else do the driving is a good decision. Fifty dollars is the one time, annual fee that UVU students and faculty pay for a pass that provides access to local buses, Frontrunner and TRAX. That is at least $130 dollars less than a single month, regular adult pass for the same access. If you don’t already have one then what are you waiting for?