Cleaner air is a big benefit of living in Western Colorado.
According to the American Lung Association, Grand Junction is one of the 25 cleanest cities for annual air particle pollution. Perhaps not surprisingly, our air quality is far better than both Denver and Salt Lake City.
That doesn’t mean our air quality is perfect, though. At certain times of the year the landscape creates a natural trap for pollution. Sources of air pollution include motor vehicle exhaust, forest fires, methane releases, agriculture and construction, and natural gas and oil development.
Understanding the causes and implications of air pollution is something everyone should be aware of as it’s one of the biggest public health concern facing society today.
Air pollution refers to particles and gases that can reach harmful concentrations in both outdoor and indoor environments. Air pollution comes from a wide variety of sources.
In the U.S., we look to the Air Quality Index (AQI) to tell us about outdoor air quality. The AQI measures five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (or particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. If you live in the Grand Valley, you may also be interested in the data from Citizens for Clean Air.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Outdoor air pollution is a major environmental health problem affecting everyone in low, middle, and high-income countries,” and was linked to 4.2 million premature deaths around the world in 2016.
Outdoor air pollution is also carcinogenic to people — the particulate matter found in polluted air is associated with increased cancer rates, especially lung cancer.
Breathing polluted air also aggravates existing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, including asthma. Sneezing, coughing, eye irritation, headaches, and dizziness are other common consequences of breathing poor quality air.
Throughout the year, the Grand Valley’s unique topography can trap air pollution. This is called a winter inversion and some of our most beautiful and iconic places make it worse. The Bookcliffs, Grand Mesa, and Colorado National Monument all create a “lid” that locks in air pollution when the conditions are right.
This is why it’s so important to reduce our pollution footprints as much as possible, and everyone has a role to play. While many causes of air pollution are out of your direct control, small actions like using a programmable thermostat and air drying clothing can help keep our air clean.