We’ve all seen it: the haze hanging over Utah’s beautiful valleys. One day you can look east to the Wasatch Mountains and west to the Oquirrhs and the next day, you look and see nothing. Those once formidable mountains have disappeared behind a sheet of inversion.
Once reserved to the long days between storms in winter, days of inversion have now crept into our summers as well. And while Utah has made vast improvements in air quality over the last decade, we must do all we can to reduce emissions and curb poor air days.
One of the ways individuals in Utah can have a positive impact on the air quality is to reduce wood burning. On a red air day in Utah, 15 percent of area sources – such as homes, businesses, and commercial buildings – come from wood burning stoves. And while 15 percent may not seem like much, one wood burning stove can release the same amount of pollution as five dirty diesel buses. In Utah, thousands of homes have a wood burning stove or fireplace as a secondary heat source. The pollution from wood smoke stays in the air longer and can not only affect our air, but also exacerbates health concerns such as asthma.
Envision Utah projects homes and businesses will replace vehicles, currently responsible for 48 percent of air pollution, as the primary producers of pollution, rising to 63 percent by 2050. Our cars are becoming cleaner and more fuel efficient, and it is time for our homes to do the same.
Utah’s air quality will not improve unless we change our behaviors and energy consumption patterns. We need increased enforcement on mandatory non-wood burning days to reduce the amount of wood being burned in Utah homes, especially when it is often used as a secondary heat source or even just for ambiance. We also need more investment for wood burning stove or fireplace change outs, especially in areas of our state that are more heavily impacted by air pollution.
To learn more about the Salt Lake Chamber’s air quality legislative priorities, visit our website.