Particulate matter (PM) air pollution exerts a considerable impact on public health. PM pollution is ranked as the 13th leading cause of mortality worldwide (ca. 800,000 annual deaths). In January 2004, the Cache Valley in northern Utah was reported to have the nation’s “worst ever” PM2.5(particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 μm in diameter) air pollution. Surrounded by tall mountains (2513-3042m), and subject to frequent winter atmospheric inversions, Cache Valley is particularly susceptible to episodes of high PM2.5 air pollution. Consistent violation of the 24 hr average U.S. EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5, resulted in designation of non-attainment as identified by the Clean Air Act. Furthermore, the majority (>80%) of Cache Valley PM2.5 (CVPM) has a mean geometric diameter < 1 mm, which efficiently penetrate to the general circulation or to the brain, causing widespread cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary pathologies than larger PM.
The main chemical component of CVPM is ammonium nitrate (NH4 NO3) formed through acid-base reactions between gas-phase ammonia from the excreta of dairy cattle and nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhaust and other combustion products. This reaction is catalyzed by cold temperatures, high humidity, and by the presence of volatile organic, and reactive compounds.
Numerous epidemiology studies conducted around the world associate PM2.5 exposure with all-cause mortality, stroke, cancer, cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular disease, asthma, pneumonia, hypertensive disease, cardiac arrest, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease and autism. PM2.5 is also associated with increased hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Consistent and coherent health effects observed in these and other studies have led to the consensus of a causal link between particulate pollution and heightened morbidity and mortality.
To summarize why air quality is an issue to address in Cache Valley:
- Cache Valley Utah frequently experiences wintertime episodes of some of the highest PM2.5 pollution measured in the USA, and new data demonstrates reductions in pulmonary function in human volunteers during these episodes;
- In other locales, similar PM2.5 concentrations are known to cause pulmonary and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
Logan High Poster Contest will Target Idling in Cache Valley
Given the health risks and severity of PM2.5 concentrations during Cache Valley’s inversion period, Logan City listed improving Cache Valley’s air as one of their top primary needs. In a new partnership called “Community Bridge Initiative,” Roslynn Brain and Edwin Stafford, USU professors in the College of Natural Resources and the Huntsman School of Business, partnered with Logan City to tackle this issue. Dr. Brain’s upper-level undergraduate course, “Communicating Sustainability” and Dr. Stafford’s marketing students will team up with Logan High School students in a mentoring program to create catchy and effective messaging to reduce idling in Cache Valley. Top winners will receive prizes ranging from the RockHaus Climbing Gym to a main prize donated by the Mayor. The top posters (displaying locally-relevent, effective, and eye-catching messaging) will also be converted into anti-idling signs to be distributed around Cache Valley. To find out more about the poster contest, click here.
What is the Community Bridge Initiative?
USU’s Community Bridge Initiative (CBI), a place-based service-learning program loosely modeled after the University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program, launched in January 2015. CBI matches a multidisciplinary set of courses to a set of projects identified by Logan City. Students work with community leaders to define meaningful solutions, develop action plans and implement projects directly relevant to their course curriculum. As a result, students come away with the experience of tackling real-world problems identified by the community.