The Utah County Clean Air Coalition is sending four cities a strong message about air quality in hopes of spurring residents to action in cleaning up the valley's air.

The coalition has mailed 41,000 oversize brochures to residents of Provo, Orem, Lindon and Pleasant Grove. The brochure is packed with information about the county's air-quality problems.On the front of the eight-page color glossy brochure is an aerial view of the valley from Provo Canyon, capped with a thick inversion.

Imposed over part of the cover photo is a smaller photo of two young children and an older man, each wearing an oxygen mask. The cover bears the message: "The air in Utah County is being abused. So are the citizens who breathe it."

Inside pages describe the county's air problems, health effects of pollutants and weather conditions that affect pollutant levels. There are also pie charts and bar graphs depicting levels and sources of pollutants.

Geneva Steel officials have in the past disputed some of the information contained in the brochure, such as a bar graph that correlates hospital admissions for children with respiratory problems to the the shutdown and reopening of the mill.

The brochure also encourages people to join the Clean Air Coalition, attend public hearings on air-quality matters and encourage elected officials to work toward clearing the valley's air.

Coalition co-chairman Sam Rushforth said the group decided about a year ago to produce the brochure because group members get so many calls from people wanting basic information.

"It's been our feeling from the first that what we are really good at is education," Rushforth said. "We're hoping that public education translates into public action."

The cost of the brochure, which was printed on recycled paper, probably will total about $10,000, Rushforth said. The coalition spent $5,100 alone on postage. Some of the businesses involved in producing it - Jim Knight Design Inc. and Prolitho, for example - gave the coalition discounts on their services.

And at least part of the cost will be paid from a $10,000 grant the coalition received in 1990 from the Alton Jones Foundation, an organization that funds environmental groups across the country.

The coalition targeted the four cities because they are the most polluted areas in the county, Rushforth said. The brochure focuses on Utah County's two worst pollutants: fine-particulate matter, or PM10, and carbon monoxide.

"When we're talking carbon monoxide pollution, it's everybody's problem," Rushforth said. "We've got to work together to solve this. When we're talking PM10, it's largely Geneva Steel."

Rushforth uses this analogy to describe awakening awareness about the health effects of air pollution: In the 1950s "everyone" smoked cigarettes. Some people began to raise questions about the health effects of smoking, which were subsequently borne out by scientific studies.

"I think we're in that stage (the 1950s) with air pollution," Rushforth said. "Now we have to educate the public. That's what the clean air coalition is all about."