You can make a difference in curbing air pollution

Published: Sunday, Jan. 26 2014 12:10 a.m. MST

A bicyclist rides in the dedicated bike lane on 300 East near 500 South in downtown in Salt Lake City Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Christine Frandsen refuses to be bullied by the bad air of the Wasatch Front.

Her husband and her four children all have asthma, but she will not be permanently chased away from her Utah home.

"It is not as if there is a magic place we could go and it would be better," she said. "What we can do is stay and get involved to try to make things change."

Changing habits is at the forefront of the search for solutions to Utah's air pollution problem. Combine errands for fewer trips. Pay attention to the type of car you drive and its pollution efficiency. Don't burn a fire in your fireplace as often.

Christine Frandsen joined the Utah Asthma Coalition. Their household consciously chooses to have one car, so her husband bike-commutes to Brigham Young University where he is a professor.

On days their 4-year-old, Lincoln, goes to preschool, he bike commutes with his dad. The school is three miles away, but the exercise strengthens his lungs.

"When the air is good, the biking makes the children healthy and strong."

Christine Frandsen said she believes turning off the key to the car is the key to cleaning up our air.

"How you commute, how often you drive, is the No. 1 thing that can make a difference as a family."

Utah state government, local government, clean air groups, the Salt Lake Chamber and scores of others spread some common messages: walk more, bike more, drive less, share rides, the list goes on.

The ugly and unhealthy temperature inversions on the Wasatch Front are no longer being accepted as a geographical, mountain-induced fact of life. Residents are tired of being helpless hostages and want to be part of some sort of solution that power washes out the gunk. A 2013 survey by Envision Utah shows just how many area residents are onboard: 99 percent said they are willing to act to clean up the air.

But that 99 percent seems counter to the just 2.5 percent of Utah residents who use public transportation to get to work. In Salt Lake City, the number is a bit higher: 4 percent.

Some leaders, like Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker, set the example by being among those who shun the car in favor of the bike. Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell is doing the same — to be environmentally friendly and also to elevate the cycling status of his city.

Becka Roolf, the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for Salt Lake City, said there's a constant crush of adding bicycle lanes in the city because of the growing popularity of the bike as a mode of transportation.

The city has 211 lane-miles of on-road bikeways and its bike share program has more ridership than any other small system in the country. The city partnered too with Enterprise car rental company for a "car share" program, and although fewer than 500 people participate in it, city officials say it is growing.

There's a new push to douse the flames on fireplaces too, with clean air advocates' call for tighter restrictions or bans being bolstered by a Utah Foundation study that showed a roaring fireplace does more harm than eight hours of driving around town.

"Burning a recreational fire is a big deal," said foundation researcher Shawn Teigen.

The state's plan to curb PM2.5 emissions that is awaiting EPA approval calls for reductions from large industrial sources — 4,600 tons per year from current rates — yet allows for increases of 12 percent anticipating that economic growth will drive the need to have a cushion for more emissions.

"That is letting industry pollute more while asking people to drive less," said Terry Marasco of the Utah Clean Air Alliance and a member of Gov. Gary Herbert's Clean Air Action Team.

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