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Doctors Call Air Pollution "Healthcare Emergency"

A spokeswoman for Utah Governor Gary Herbert says the governor disagrees with dozens of Utah Doctors who say the region’s current air pollution levels are causing a public healthcare emergency.  A group of physicians hand-delivered a letter to the Governor’s office Wednesday afternoon, asking him to take prompt action to address poor air quality along the Wasatch Front and in Cache Valley.

During a press conference in the state capitol rotunda, Emergency Physician Dr. Howie Garber read the letter, signed by more than 100 health care professionals, calling on elected officials to take emergency action to address air pollution.

“We know from thousands of medical studies that people are dying in our community right now because of air pollution and its role in triggering strokes, heart attacks, congestive heart failure and infant mortality," Garber said.

The letter calls for free public transit for the remainder of the winter season and for large point sources like Kennecott Utah Copper to cut production in half.

Ally Isom is a spokeswoman for Governor Herbert. She says he would not characterize current air quality conditions as a health emergency, but acknowledges it is unhealthy for some groups. She says the governor encourages everyone to exercise individual responsibility to combat the pollution.

“I just want to make it clear, the state of Utah is doing all it can at this point, within the realm of the law to ensure that everyone is in compliance," Isom said. "The reality we face is over 50 percent of the pollution we have in the air is caused by tailpipes.”

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that cities in Utah have the worst air quality in the nation because of the latest winter inversion.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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