This page was originally published Feb. 5, 2014

Health Impacts

Pollution is a complex issue and no one person is to blame for it. Whether the source of pollution is a car or a copper mine, air pollution eventually finds its way into the body. This happens because the surface area of your lungs is about the size of a tennis court. When you inhale fine particles, those in the PM2.5 category and smaller, they cause damage to your lungs and are able to slip into your bloodstream.[18]

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 158 million Americans are currently experiencing unhealthy levels of air pollution [16]. In Northern Utah (Provo to Logan) 28% of people suffer from asthma, COPD, or cardiovascular disease. [17] These ailments are only exarcebated by utah's inversions and accompanying poor air [[19]]. It is known that people exposed to higher levels of air pollution have reduced lung function, lung function growth during their childhood, and aggravated symptoms of asthma. [20][21] The more we study pollution the more we see health risks.

While cars and trucks do add pollution to our air it's important to note that not all fine particulate matter is equally as dangerous. Industrial emissions have been shown to be more toxic. Clinical studies also lead to the same conclusion, that PM2.5 with heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) attached to them—characteristic of industrial emissions—are considerably more toxic. [21] Pollution emitted from Utah's industry contains more harmful variants of particulates, this includes metals like lead and mercury. When this kind of pollution is in inhaled it can cause more damage than we previously knew on a cellular level. [21]

Consider reading "Smoke and Mirrors: The rest of the story about industrial pollution in the Salt Lake Valley" produced by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment to get a better understanding of exactly how industry contributes to our poor air.