Utahns seek cleaner air as inversion persists

Jan 17, 2022, 7:33 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 4:27 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTYAs the temperature inversion intensifies and traps more pollution in our neighborhoods, Utahns look for ways to escape to breathe clean air. Many are also looking for ways they can reduce their pollution.

Right now, none of the pollution generated along the Wasatch Front is leaving the Wasatch Front, and it could be here for a few more days.

People we spoke with at a high elevation trailhead, where the air is not as bad, were looking for short-term relief from high levels of particulate pollution. But they say long-term solutions are just as important.

“It’s weird being able to see the air you breathe,” Abagael Balavitch said.

Balavitch moved to Utah a few years ago from Michigan, and tries to stay out of the bad air as much as she can.

“At least up here in this area, which is nice, it’s nice to kind of get out of it,” she said, looking at the pollution in the valley below.

But, she’s a dog hiker, and gets outside every day, regardless of the pollution.

“Definitely. It’s not that fun breathing it,” she said. “I’ve definitely noticed it does kind of affect my lungs a little bit. So, I definitely prefer to stay inside when it’s really bad.”

Warm air aloft has again trapped cold air and pollution in Utah’s low elevation neighborhoods.

It will take a storm to clear the smog.

“It’s making me not want to live here,” Dina Drits-Esser, who moved here 15 years ago, said.

Long-lasting inversions like this one make her rethink that decision.

“When it’s this bad, I often think that I want to go back to the Midwest,” she said. “But, I have a job, my husband and I have a family here, and we have a really nice community.”

So, it’s not likely her family would really leave, but Drits-Esser said it’s not good for their kids who are in school lower in the valley.

When the air is this bad in the valley, she said, they take extra precautions at home.

“We have our windows closed all the time, and run our indoor air filters all the time,” she explained. “It just makes me feel like this is not a sustainable way to live.”

Others are encouraged that Utah communities and the state are increasingly more willing to take action.

“I’m happy to see that, politically, we are recognizing it as an issue as something we have to deal with,” Alex Khajavi said. “But, there’s absolutely much more we could be doing, and there’s much more we should be doing.”

The people we spoke with said they take action to reduce their emissions by consolidating trips, driving less, taking the ski bus, and choosing electric vehicles.

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Utahns seek cleaner air as inversion persists