(KCPW News) The entire northwest corner of Utah failed to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's new, stricter standard for fine particulate air pollution. It was the first time Utah failed to meet the standard, but it came as no surprise to Moms for Clean Air co-founder and pediatrician Dr. Michelle Hofmann.
"We're seeing levels that are quite high during our inversions, three times, four times the current standard," Hofmann says. "And so that really needs to be the time period that we're focusing our efforts on to protect our public's health."
Hofmann wants residents to be more accountable for their contribution to the region's bad air quality, especially during winter inversions. At these times, she says people should drive less, bundle errands into a single trip and opt for public transportation.
However, she acknowledges that the state might need to do more to regulate industrial sources to come into full compliance with the EPA. And in doing this, she says the state will need to overcome a regulatory challenge: devising a solution that addresses the intermittent winter inversion pattern. Such a solution could look strikingly different than other regions of the country that also made the EPA non-attainment list.
"I think our state and our non-attainment areas deserve unique solutions that really aren't being undertaken in other parts of the country because our problem is different," Hofmann says.
The non attainment designation, issued on Monday, begins a three year process in which the state must develop a plan to reduce fine particulate air pollution. Failing to do so could put desperately needed federal transportation and public transit funding in jeopardy, among other possible sanctions. Fine particulate pollution is believed to cause increased health risks, particularly in children and the elderly. These include respiratory problems and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.