Globally, air pollution kills more people every year than polluted water, car accidents and guns. The same is true for Utah. From a public health perspective air pollution is far deadlier than car accidents and gunshot wounds combined. Look at these numbers:
U.S. Deaths in 2014 from car accidents: 32,675
U.S. Deaths in 2014 from guns: about 30,000
U.S. Deaths in 2014 from air pollution: about 200,000
Where is the outrage?
The problem is when someone dies from a gunshot wound or car accident, the cause is obvious, but with air pollution, death usually creeps up insidiously and ambiguously… Essentially no one ends up in the morgue with a toe tag that says died of air pollution. Instead cause of death is listed as heart attack, asthma, lung disease, stroke, SIDS, and cancer. But the result is the same. Someone who was loved is no longer with those they love.
To get involved with the national clean air movement join Moms Clean Air Force and to get more involved with the grassroots clean air movement in Utah visit our Facebook page and text CLEANAIR to 41411. (Do it now!)
Yesterday Senator Escamilla brought her two bills SB 49 and SB 66 to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. SB 49 which would have increased the statute of limitations on prosecuting violators of air quality rules from one year to five years, was amended to a two year statute of limitations, and passed on to the full Senate. The issue arose because DAQ doesn’t have the staff to check polluters every single year. They can get through all the required checks in about 3 and a half years. So a one year statute of limitations really doesn’t make any sense at all. That’s like filling out your taxes, knowing that you can only possibly be audited every third year, and that no one can come after you for cheating in the two off years.
Utah Moms For Clean Air testified that this legislation gave the DAQ the tools it needed to do its important job – the job of “safeguarding human health and quality of life…” Did you know that’s actually the broad mission of the Department of Environmental Quality? This bill also sends a message that Utah’s air quality laws are to be taken seriously and that no one will be given a pass for breaking those laws.
The bill originally failed with Senators Knudson, Jenkins, Dayton, and Christensen voting NO and Senators Vickers, Iwamoto, and Shiozawa voting YES (thank you to those senators!)
Interestingly, the committee went on to the next agenda item, and after that Senator Iwamoto raised a motion to go back and amend SB49, even though it had already failed. There was some question as to whether that was proper form, but ultimately Senator Iwamoto’s motion passed, the bill was amended to a two year statute of limitations, and passed the committee with only Senator Dayton clinging to her NO vote.
This bill will be heard soon on the Senate floor – possibly Friday, maybe Monday – so PLEASE e-mail your Senator (and several others!) to support SB 49! And maybe send a thank you to Senators Knudson, Jenkins, Christensen, Vickers, Shiozawa, and Iwamoto for passing the amended version.
Two clear leaders: Senator Escamilla for sponsoring this legislation and Senator Iwamoto for bringing the bill back from the brink! I will note too that in addition to voting NO, Senator Dayton also took the opportunity during the proceedings to call the EPA “unconstitutional.” This is a view that simply needs to get out of the way. Feelings about the federal EPA are surely not relevant to the evaluation of two Utah clean air bills. Also, Utah County, which the Senator represents, sometimes has worse smog than Salt Lake County. Let’s leave our feelings about the EPA at the door, and get to solving the problem!
Senator Escamilla’s other bill would raise the fines we can levy against clean air law breakers. These fines haven’t changed since 1981. This bill increased the fines with inflation. In the end, Senator Vickers motioned to have the bill tabled pending more work on the numbers. We hope the bill will be brought back soon.
While the Senators consider this bill further, let me ask one favor:
If I get a speeding ticket, can I opt to pay the 1981 fine?
Speaker Hughes: Eliminate Red Air Days
On the first day of the legislative session, leadership talked the talk. Now will they walk the walk?
Both President Niederhauser (R – Salt Lake) and Speaker Hughes (R – Salt Lake) noted the need for improved air quality as a priority for Utah. President Niederhauser told his fellow senators that with Utah facing a doubling in population clean air and clean water will be “vital.” Continuing, he said, “It is our nature to address these things tomorrow, and I hope we have the vision and courage to address these issues now.” In the House, Speaker Hughes spoke about air quality at length, telling his fellow representatives that Utah has significantly decreased emissions in the past 10 years, but that this reduction didn’t happen on its own, it happened because of work done in the state to address the problem. He stated that population density and geography have led to poor air quality, and that its a problem that will worsen without attention. Most strikingly, he suggested putting “a stake in the ground, right now” to make it a goal to eliminate red air days in Utah. An exciting goal, although Utah Moms For Clean Air might remind the Speaker that orange and yellow air days aren’t anything to be proud of either, and that negative health effects arise from even low-level exposure. Let it also be noted that while we may have reduced emissions, the 2015 State of the Air report from the American Lung Association still gave Salt Lake City a failing grade.
Neither leader offered any specifics about how they intend to work toward cleaner air, although Speaker Hughes noted the importance of giving the DAQ the tools it needs for monitoring and study. It is, however, encouraging to hear both men set the tone of the session off right. As specific bills are debated, it remains to be seen how serious either leader is about improving air quality. Utah Moms For Clean Air will be listening to the debates and noting the votes. It will take more than encouraging words to clean our air. It will take more than lofty goals to keep our kids healthy. We will be waiting to see who will LEAD in action.
Salt Lake City recently announced that starting January 25th, curbside service for brown composting bins will be temporarily suspended until April 4th, 2016.
Why? Only 1% of brown bins were set out last winter, so residents do not really need the service during this time of the year. SLC will thus save 6,500 pounds of fuel and therefore prevent 1,070 pounds of air pollutants from unnecessarily entering our air shed.
What other challenges to business-as-usual could we implement to save money and prevent pollution?
This is the kind of thinking that can change our airscape and bring us the year-round clean air we all so desire.
So, THREE CHEERS to Salt lake City for being leader in the fight for cleaner air.
For more information go to: slcgreen.com
Here’s how it works:
You (or anyone) text CLEANAIR to 41411. (Do it now!)
You then get a message which says “Welcome to CLEANAIR, Utah’s Clean Air Activism Community.”
We will text you once or twice a week (at most) letting you know about action alerts, hearing, rallies and more!
One of the best ways to instigate change is by pressuring our elected leaders to do just that, LEAD. If they cannot do that, then encourage them to follow those who do lead. And for those who want to impede progress? Well, they will end up on our naughty list – and we will call them out on it, whether legislator, lobbyist or trade association.
So get in the 2016 loop by texting CLEANAIR now! We will make it easy for you to share you voice and demand clean air now!
Many of the doctors we work with have long suspected it, but now research shows a direct link between bad air and hear attack rates. So, think about the people you know who have suffered heart attacks and think about when those attacks happened. Odds are likley that those heart attacks happened around a yellow or red air day. For more info read the article by Kristen Moulton below.
New Utah research: Bad air can literally cause a heart attack
Salt Lake Tribune
November 9, 2015
by Kristen Moulton
Utahns with heart disease have one more reason to stay inside on bad-air days this winter: Pollution can literally give you a heart attack.
A new study at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that the risk of the most serious kind of heart attack rises after the level of PM2.5 (fine particulate) pollution reaches 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality considers that in the yellow, or “moderate,” range of air pollution.
Such pollution is comprised of fine particles of metals, allergens, organic chemicals, soot and dirt, each measuring about 1/20th the width of a human hair.
For every 10 micrograms above 25 the PM2.5 rate reaches, the risk of a serious heart attack rises by 15 percent, said Kent Meredith, an Intermountain Medical Center cardiologist who reported on the research at the American Heart Association scientific session in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.
The monitoring station at Hawthorne Elementary in Salt Lake City recorded only 13 days of PM2.5 pollution above 25 micrograms last winter, but 34 days in the noxious winter of 2013-14 and 29 days the winter before that. November sees an occasional bad-air day, but the worst pollution strikes in December, January and February each year.
The findings “pile on” a body of research that links bad air to heart problems, but it zeros in on the kind of heart attack those with heart disease are most likely to suffer during bouts of bad air: deadly.
Such heart attacks are called STEMI, for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. It’s when a coronary artery is totally blocked and a large part of the heart muscle cannot get oxygen.
“These are the types of heart attacks,” Meredith said, “where you literally have minutes to get to the hospital and get those arteries opened.”
The research involved studying the heart attacks of more than 16,000 Wasatch Front patients at LDS Hospital and Intermountain Medical Center between 1993 and 2014. The records are in a database kept by Intermountain’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.
The research, however, found a weak correlation between high air pollution and non-STEMI heart attacks or unstable angina, Meredith said.
People with heart disease are most vulnerable because they have plaque in their artery walls, which becomes inflamed when they breathe polluted air, Meredith said. The plaque becomes unstable, swells and splits, blocking an artery.
“You most often don’t get a warning for these,” he said.
Cardiologist John Ryan at the University of Utah said that breathing in particles also can aggravate asthma or reactive airway disease, which decreases oxygen level and puts a strain on the heart.
“These are important findings that are additive to what we’ve found previously on heart disease and air quality,” Ryan said Friday. “It’s sobering to think a bad-air day could be the cause for a heart attack.”
Many North Americans are unaware they have heart disease, so it’s important to manage the risk factors, including controlling one’s weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, and getting daily exercise, Ryan said.
And on bad-air days, those with heart disease should stay inside, he said. “Families need to know this, too.”
C. Arden Pope, a Brigham Young University epidemiologist involved in the new study, said he used state pollution-monitoring-station data for Utah, Salt Lake and Weber valleys.
That was compared against the heart attacks of 16,314 patients living in those areas.
The research affirmed earlier findings. But, he said, “in this particular case, we have a lot more data over a lot longer period of time.”