Study underway to understand how to make Utah air cleaner, safer to breathe

Posted at 5:35 PM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 19:35:29-05

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Utah scientists, researchers and the Division of Quality have undertaken a study of air toxics and their impacts to the public's health in the Salt Lake Valley.

On Tuesday, a group researchers from Brigham Young University and scientists from DAQ, showed young students around the study at Neil Armstrong Academy in West Valley City. The scientists taught the children about inversions; how they are created and why they are unhealthy to breathe in.

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Utah Department of Environmental Quality a $355,000 grant to conduct the one-of-a-kind study that monitors air toxics at the West Valley City site to evaluate the exposures of hazardous emissions.

“This study will provide a comprehensive data set of organic compounds that is currently not available,” said Patrick Barickman, environmental program manager at DAQ, who is overseeing the research. “Because of this level of detail, these measurements will help us to characterize the potential sources of these pollutants in the urban area.”

Emissions from industry, highways, the airport, combined with winter inversions creates exposure, which are concerns for the community, experts say. The data collected by the project will be critical to identifying toxic components and improving air quality in the area.

Jaron Hansen, a chemistry and biochemistry professor at BYU, explained this type of study has never been done before and they never had the advanced instruments available to measure the particulate matter until now.

The grant money paid for the new instruments. The equipment is able to measure the exact particulate matter in the air and where it came from. This study gets answers by the hour and the minute, which improves accuracy.

The study started in mid-December and will last until the end of February. Researchers will conduct another study over the summer.

Researchers will compare results from both seasons. They say for now, unlike most Utahns, who hate the inversions, the scientists depend on them for their study.

The study will look at the following:

- Evaluate how much different pollution sources contribute (ex. refineries, wood-burning, and vehicles)

- Understand pollution impacts of air quality

- Estimate exposure risks

-Improve community involvement and action to reduce toxic air emissions

The study's results will go back to the EPA and then policymakers will determine what Utahns can do to make the air cleaner and safer to inhale.