To the editor:

Recent Deseret News articles and editorials referring to an EPA 1989 Air Quality Summary have suggested that the air quality in Salt Lake County is deteriorating rapidly. This conclusion appears to be based primarily on differences seen between 1987 and 1989 data.It should be emphasized that the weather, which we have no control over, greatly affects levels of air pollution. Data for the past 10 years show a wide variation in the number of days that the carbon monoxide and ozone standards have been exceeded.

Because of year-to-year variations in the weather, the more years that can be included in a trend analysis, the better. The EPA report used the data since 1980 to evaluate air-pollution trends.

The trend, since 1980, for the Salt Lake area peak ozone levels, shows a decrease of 17 percent as compared with 14 percent decrease nationally. For CO, a 42 percent decrease in Salt Lake County compares with a 25 percent decrease nationally. If the Deseret News really cared about reporting the whole truth, it would have reported on the entire period instead of the two-year comparison between 1987 and 1989.

Included in EPA's "National Air Quality and Emissions Trend Report, 1989" is a caution against trying to compare or rank cities based on the data contained in the report. Quoting from Section 4.3.2, "The reader is cautioned that this summary is not adequate in itself to numerically rank `cities' according to their air quality." Yet the recent news articles and editorials compared Salt Lake City with Detroit, Philadelphia and New York City. This, in my opinion, is poor journalism.

The federal program to reduce emissions from new vehicles, state programs to reduce point source emissions, and the local I/M programs have worked together to reduce concentrations of carbon monoxide and ozone.

We still have a long way to go to clean up the air, but things are getting better and will continue to get better if we all do our part. We feel one part the Deseret News has in this effort is to accurately report air-quality information.

Harry L. Gibbons


Salt Lake City-County Health Department