SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Congressman Ben McAdams announced Friday he’s taking a step to tackle air quality with a federal bill aimed at figuring out how to fight dirty air.
But it doesn’t focus on the bad air northern Utah valleys commonly see in the winter. Instead, it’s all about something we can’t see: Ozone.
In the winter, Utahns can see and feel awful air quality, especially in the Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley.
“It is very visible, very tangible,” said Daniel Mendoza, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah. “People can react to it, and either stay indoors or go somewhere else.”
Utahns know it’s bad, and many probably know it’s because of pm 2.5, which is fine particulate matter that gets trapped in the valleys.
Mendoza, who is also a joint appointment in the pulmonary division at the U of U School of Medicine, explains that ozone is another threat in the air we breathe, and it's a problem especially in the summer when most people spend time outdoors.
“If you’re hiking, or if you’re biking or doing some sort of exercise outside, you are actually breathing in deeper. You are breathing in more oxygen, more air,” Mendoza explained. “And that means you are actually breathing more ozone, which is causing some negative health outcomes.”
It doesn’t matter if someone escapes to the mountains or not, because unlike pm 2.5, Mendoza explained that ozone is everywhere on the ground level.
Scientists and health experts know it’s not good for your health, but there’s a lot they don’t know about ozone.
“The issue is, that it is difficult to quantify it granular enough for a solution to really see how is it affecting potentially different neighborhoods, how is it affecting different areas,” Mendoza said.
Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) wants scientists to study ozone on the national level.
At a press conference Friday morning, he explained how the bad air issues aren’t necessarily unique to Utah.
“You’re seeing rises in ozone across the entire country,” he said.
His new federal bill calls for figuring out exactly where ozone pollution comes from, why it’s on the rise and recommendations on how to address it.
“Understanding exactly what the contributions to our local area ground-level ozone pollution is will help us develop an action to tackle that,” he said.
It’s a quantitative, comprehensive look at a problem that’s practically invisible—but as Rep. McAdams pointed out, just as serious, as the problems we do see.
“Ozone pollution isn’t as visible maybe as your dirty air coming from cars and that, but it is dangerous,” Rep. McAdams said. “And it’s something that we need to understand and we need to take action to reduce.”
Rep. McAdams’ legislation calls for the EPA to work with the National Academy of Sciences to deliver those study results within two years.