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Physicians explore myths behind Salt Lake's reported air pollution numbers

The Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) took to the KCPW airwaves on Feb. 27 to debunk the numbers that politicians and industry consistently use to lay the blame for air pollution on people living on the Wasatch Front rather than on industry.

The Clean Air, No Excuses rally in Salt Lake City on Jan. 25, 2014
The Clean Air, No Excuses rally in Salt Lake City on Jan. 25, 2014
Shad Engkilterra

Dr. Michael Woodruff addressed the myth that industry is only responsible for 11 percent of the pollution.

“We are being told a story by both industry and the state,” says Woodruff. “The story you’re being told when we look at this graph is that you are the problem.”

According to Woodruff, the percentages that are most commonly cited are estimates that use numbers that were self-reported by industry. The estimate is only for winter days, and they were estimated during the weekday when there are more drivers on the road.

The category if “transportation” includes UPS trucks and 18-wheelers with diesel engines. Diesel engines are the most polluting engines on the road. President Barack Obama recently stated that nationally, heavy-duty trucks generate 20 percent of while only being four percent of the vehicles on the road. On the Wasatch Front, with its refineries, Stericycle and Kennecott Mine, both those percentages are likely higher.

The numbers only relate to the particulate matter that is 2.5 microns (pm 2.5) or greater. They do not include lead, arsenic, dioxins or any other chemicals that endanger people’s health.

Woodruff stated that the pm 2.5 created by industry is more dangerous that that created by cars because it is created with other chemicals that latch onto the pm 2.5 and enter the body that way.

UPHE put together a list of the 12 myths about Salt Lake City air pollution that they debunked during the broadcast and spent about two hours giving evidence to the falsehood of what the DAQ and industry want people to believe.