5 common myths about Utah’s air

Donna Spangler and Amy Christensen from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality shared 5 common myths about Utah's air.

This time of year there is always a great deal of public and private discussion centered around Utah`s winter air inversions. Separating fact from fiction can seem daunting. Here are the facts regarding 5 common myths about Utah`s air.

• Myth 1: Turning your car off and then restarting it releases more emissions than idling while in line at the bank or fast food restaurant.
Fact: Idling for longer than 30 seconds DOES contribute to poor air quality. It`s best to use this rule of thumb: if you need to put your car in park, turn it off.

Especially never idle while in a car line waiting for a child after school. Not only are you adding to air pollution, but smaller children who walk by vehicle exhausts can be very vulnerable to fumes. Children breathe in air much more rapidly than adults.
• Myth 2: Refineries and other industrial sources are the biggest air polluters along the Wasatch Front.
o Fact: By far the largest source of emission pollution is from vehicles, which make up 48 percent or roughly half of total emissions along the Wasatch Front. Refineries and large industrial facilities represent about 13 percent of total emissions along the Wasatch Front. Making daily decisions to use mass transit, trip chain, carpool, walk and bike are excellent ways to cut that percentage.

Taking alternative transportation becomes increasing important during an inversion as the amount of pollution in our air doubles every day during these periods.
• Myth 3: There`s not much any one person can do about air quality - it`s just the nature of living in a bowl-like valley, and we just need to learn to live with it.
o Fact: It`s true that our unique topography and weather play a big role in our pollution problems along the Wasatch Front. Yet there are many things you and your family can do to make a difference when it comes to the air we breathe.
 Drive your newest car. Newer, well-tuned cars reduce air pollution dramatically. Also switching from a vehicle with a smog rating of 5 to a vehicle with a smog rating of 8 will reduce your vehicle emissions by 80 percent.
 Reduce the number of cold-starts you make with your car. About 60-90 percent of dangerous emissions occur in the first 50 seconds of vehicle operation after a cold start. You can make a dramatic reduction in emissions by chaining trips together to avoid multiple cold starts throughout the day.
 Plan to use a no-emission snow shovel instead of a snow blower.
• Myth 4: There is no definitive, official source of information for daily air quality levels in Utah.
Fact: Air quality conditions are monitored at various sites throughout the state by the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ), every hour of every day. To check the current PM2.5 levels in your area, visit air.utah.gov and click on 'current conditions,' or download the free Utah Air App for iPhones at http://www.apple.com/itunes/ and http://www.googleplay for Android devices.

Let`s separate fact from fiction and work together to do what we can to improve the air that we breathe. #ShowUCAIR by making new, everyday choices that over time will make a big difference. To find out more visit UCAIR.org