Utahns can have clean air, but we choose not to — why?

Letter to the Editor originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune
January 02, 2018

By Cherise Udell

The Utah Department of Environmental Air Quality sent an alert recently that our nasty, stinky air continues to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

This is an understatement of monumental proportions.

Our nasty, stinky air is unhealthy for anyone who has lungs.

This is not hyperbole. According to the scientists and doctors at the forefront of air pollution research, there is no level of air pollution that does not cause harm, just as there is no number of cigarettes that is safe to smoke.

Fortunately, our bodies are very resilient and can often (but not always) tolerate substantial abuse whether in the form of cigarettes or air pollution, but for our government to send out announcements that our toxic air is unhealthy only for “sensitive groups” is irresponsible.

Imagine the Utah Department of Health sending an alert that smoking is only “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

It is also irresponsible that our government and the majority of our political leaders know that with Utah’s topography inversions are inevitable, but they do little to nothing to curb the amount of pollution we are pumping into our valley day after day, year after year. Every politician in our state has taken an oath to protect the people and resources of our state, and yet how many of them are actually honorably upholding this oath?

Let me be clear: We can have clean air. We are choosing not to. We are choosing nasty, dirty air even though we know this nasty, dirty air harms and kills. Every year about 2,000 Utahns die prematurely because we keep choosing dirty air. Think heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, cancer and SIDS.

If we can choose clean air, why are we choosing dirty air? That is the question our politicians and Utah residents must answer.