Utah hopes to clear air with new regulations

Utah is considering new air quality rules, largely because of days like Wednesday: The Utah State Capitol is shown against the haze from an inversion in Salt Lake City. Enlarge photo

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Utah is considering new air quality rules, largely because of days like Wednesday: The Utah State Capitol is shown against the haze from an inversion in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY – As Utah’s air quality worsens, state regulators are working a set of plans to limit everyday emissions, from banning the sale of aerosol deodorants and hair spray to prohibiting wood burning in fireplaces more often during the year.

Regulators say dozens of new rules will touch everyday life by August for 2 million of Utah’s residents along the Wasatch Front. Utah could lose federal highway funds if it doesn’t start reducing pollution along the urban corridor by December 2014.

The new regulations will force California-style changes in consumer products, with spray pumps replacing aerosols or aerosols switching to environmentally-friendly propellants. Likewise, regulators are tightening limits on volatile organic compounds in paints, coatings and solvents – local factories and car-repair shops will have to buy reformulated products or install special emissions controls.

Regulators have already adopted an air-pollution plan for largely rural Cache County that calls for vehicle emissions tests over the opposition of local officials.

“There’s nobody that likes what we’re doing,” said David McNeill of the Utah Division of Air Quality. “We’re going after everybody.”

Northern Utah’s urbanized valleys have the nation’s worst air at times, an accident of weather and geography. In winter, cold stagnant air often settles in the bowl-shaped mountain basins, trapping tailpipe and other emissions that have no way of escaping.

The filth in the air can last for days at a time. Air pollution was fast approaching federal limits Wednesday along the Wasatch Front.

Wood burning was prohibited for a third day.

Authorities urged motorists to limit driving and called on “sensitive” people to stay indoors.

Exposure to the brew of pollutants – soot, dust and gaseous chemicals – can constrict blood vessels, send pressure soaring and make hearts flutter, say Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, a group raising the alarm about the region’s pollution.

The doctors say young children and fetuses in the womb are especially at risk of acquiring asthma or developmental disorders.