10 Things You Can Do to Help with the Toxic Inversion

Salt Lake's toxic inversion. By Tim Brown/Flickr.

Salt Lake’s toxic inversion. By Tim Brown/Flickr.

By Shaun Daniel

Ahem! Sorry, I wasn’t trying to interrupt. Just clearing my throat of Salt Lake winter phlegm. Those pesky PM 2.5s. We’ve really got to do something about them.

So, here are 10 ideas for things you can do to help take the toxins out of these toxic inversions.

  1. Shift your daily rounds to things within walking, biking, or easy transit distance. (Bonus points for making this a general habit.)
  1. Stay home. Call in inverted. No, seriously: Ask your employer if you can telecommute when the air is bad. The U has a policy that gives management the option to let employees work from home.
  1. Don’t be an SOV. If you do drive, do more than combine trips, combine CARS! Run errands and travel to school/work with a friend. Or four.
  1. Don’t idle. It’s a myth that starting the car again wastes more gasoline or that modern engines need to warm up before driving. Salt Lake City even has an ordinance against it.
  1. Act at the earliest sign of inversion. The more we all do early on, the less severe the pollutant buildup.
  1. Run a competition with friends or coworkers to see who can go longer without driving. Weight scoring according to number of trips to make it fair.
  1. Read this short guide: “Air Quality Literacy: A Guide for the University of Utah.” Then you can set the record straight when someone insists that it’s all just a matter of topography and there is nothing we can do about it.
  1. Last year’s Clean Air, No Excuses rally. Photo by Eduardo Viacava Passanesi.

    Contact your state representative and ask them to support expanded transit options for all and to set stricter air quality limits for industry.

  1. Start referring to inversion events like hurricanes, but with the name of a legislator who won’t support alternatives to driving or who voted against stricter limits on industrial polluters. Like this, “Yuck, I can’t believe this is the fifth day of Toxic Inversion ________.”
  1. Attend the Clean Air, No Excuses rally on January 31. Show your support now by RSVPing at http://www.facebook.com/events/1532518337030875/

Final thought: Let’s stop calling it “the inversion.” Inversions are naturally occurring meteorological phenomena in mountain valleys like our own. What isn’t natural is the putrid, pallid, precarious platter of particles we put into the air each day that are sometimes trapped by that inversion layer. So, give it a name, or call it out as a “toxic inversion.” Let’s deem it what it is: pollution, smog, the airborne detritus of our current systems and habits.

It’s nothing to sneeze at. But cough, maybe.

Shaun Daniel is a graduate student in Environmental Humanities.

3 responses to “10 Things You Can Do to Help with the Toxic Inversion

  1. Cleaning out your garage and keeping your car out of the cold may also help. Catalytic converters are drastically less efficient when cold.

    “You may not think that your garage is a big source of pollution, but hear me out. Your car engine produces drastically more air pollutants until it warms up. A Utah Foundation study estimates that “at least one quarter and possibly over one half of winter vehicle pollution results from cold starts.” So clean out your garage, get your cars inside, and keep them a little warmer so they pollute less. Besides, no one likes scraping ice off a windshield every morning.”

  2. Pingback: You can help Clear the Air | sustainableUTAH·

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