The federal agency could enforce stricter standards. The public has until March 28 to comment.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering introducing stricter particulate pollution standards – which could force Utah officials to make significant changes.
PM2.5 — extremely small particles emitted after combustion, such as power plant ash or vehicle exhaust — are responsible for the mist-like haze that forms and stagnates over the Salt Lake Valley in winter. According to the EPA, inhaling these particles can irritate the respiratory tract and cause heart and lung problems, including death.
The EPA has proposed lowering the annual PM2.5 standard from 12 to 9-10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which may not have a significant impact on Utah.
But the federal agency is also considering a stricter 24-hour surveillance standard that would force the state to change. And the EPA is asking the public to comment.
A reduction in the annual standard wouldn’t affect Utah as much because the state already records less than 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air at most monitoring sites, said Bryce Bird, director of the Department of Air Quality. The outlier is a Salt Lake County location off Interstate-15, where levels are near the top of the newly proposed standard because of pollution from cars.
However, lowering the 24-hour standard would have a much larger impact, as Utah is already “very close to exceeding” the current 24-hour standard, and a reduction would require action to reduce emissions said Bird.
This intervention could take the form of stricter restrictions on vehicle emissions, or more outreach and education about other ways to reduce air pollution.
Bird added that the EPA’s proposals are based on research showing the long-term and acute health effects of inhaling particulate matter.
Here’s how to share your thoughts with the EPA
To comment on the EPA’s proposal, visit and click the blue “Comment” button on the left side of the screen.
The agency recommended commenters be concise and support claims with “sound arguments, scientific evidence and/or how you are influenced”.
The public comment period ends on March 28th.
The majority of the independent Scientific Advisory Committee on Clean Air, on whose research the EPA relied to make its recommendation, established both annual and 24-hour hours Standards should be lowered.
In fact, EPA stated in its proposal: “Based on the current evidence and quantitative information, and considering the CASAC advice and public comments to date in this re-examination, the Administrator proposes to conclude that the current primary PM2, 5 standards are not adequate to protect public health with a reasonable safety margin.”
Despite this, the EPA suggested only lowering the annual standard. The government found the evidence for changing the 24-hour standard “less clear”, noting that “a stricter annual standard is expected to reduce both average (annual) concentrations and peak (daily) concentrations”.
Locations in Utah exceed the 24-hour standard for PM2.5 during bad inversions — like earlier this month — but violations of the standard are based on a 3-year average of the 98th percentile value at a location.
PM2.5 levels of around 40 or 50 micrograms per cubic foot of air were recorded at many locations in Utah this past weekend. In Cache County, one location reported 97.5 micrograms per cubic foot of air.
A tool based on research from environmental data science nonprofit Berkeley Earth calculated that when the air reaches about 50 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic foot, breathing 24 hours a day is equivalent to smoking nearly three cigarettes. The air at the Cache County site was like smoking nearly five cigarettes.
Air quality consistently worse on the western side
Salt Lake County received an F when rated by the American Lung Association for high ozone days, and air quality monitors often show that the western side has some of the worst hot spots.
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https://www.sltrib.com/news/2023/02/10/frustrated-by-salt-lake-city-air/ Frustrated with the air quality in Salt Lake City? The EPA wants to hear from you