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Sierra Daily

Jan 24, 2013

The Fit and the Filthy

Salt lake city air pollutionSome of the country’s most annoyingly fit and obsessively active outdoorspeople have crowded into Salt Lake City this week to take part in Outdoor Retailer, a twice-yearly convention where our favorite outdoor-gear stores place their orders for the coming year from our favorite outdoor-gear manufacturers. Salt Lake is an apt venue given the abundant outdoor-recreation opportunities in the right-next-door Wasatch Range (not to mention the 3.2 beer). What most OR attendees this year probably didn’t expect was finding themselves breathing the unhealthiest air in the country. 

According to Associated Press, the EPA “has singled out the greater Salt Lake region as having the nation's worst air for much of January, when an icy fog smothers mountain valleys for days or weeks at a time and traps lung-busting soot.” On Wednesday more than 100 doctors under the banner Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment petitioned Gov. Gary Herbert and other elected officials to lower highway speed limits, make mass transit free, and curb industrial pollution for the rest of the winter. "We're in a public-health emergency for much of the winter," said Brian Moench, an anesthesiologist and the group’s president.

Yesterday the greater Salt Lake region had up to 130 micrograms of soot per cubic meter, more than three times the federal clean-air limit. “That's equivalent to a bad day in the Los Angeles area,” notes AP.

Image from U.S. EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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