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Health, Science & Environment

Hazardous Air Pollutants: Initial State Study Finds Low Levels

Mark Schoneveld
Flickr Creative Commons

Utah’s air-quality scientists continue to piece together the puzzle of the state’s pollution problem. Recently, they’ve been studying a new piece of it, the toxic components that might be tied to cancer and other severe health conditions

The state Division of Air Quality began to look at toxic chemicals in the Salt Lake Valley’s air pollution after an outcry from clean air advocates last winter.

The Environmental Protection Agency classifies 187 chemicals as “hazardous air pollutants.”

DAQ has zeroed in on several dozen of them that showed up on pollution monitors in West Valley City and Bountiful. DAQ air scientist Roman Kuprov led the review, comparing local results with data from Phoenix.

“I don’t know if there’s anything particularly mind-blowing about it,” he says, “but I was pleasantly surprised to see that we’re not very different from many other urban areas in the U.S.”

Kuprov says nearly a dozen known and suspected carcinogens showed up in measureable amounts but mostly at levels to low to be considered a significant health risk. The same is true for exposure to the air toxics that might cause health impacts with day-in, day-out exposures over a lifetime.

Brian Moench, co-founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, has a different take on the results.

“We’re glad the state’s paying some attention to it. That’s the first thing,” he says. “The second thing, however, is that this is preliminary data, but it’s also very general data. It’s not specific enough and it’s not complete enough to really give us a handle on what the health consequences are of these particular toxic compounds.”

Utah’s air-quality office agrees that more study is needed. It plans to freshen up its data set with three new monitors. The idea is to understand how these hazardous air pollutants might be affecting health.

Judy Fahys, KUER News.

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