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Mayor Applegarth invites you to participate in Idle-Free Month

Oct 05, 2017 03:22PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Air pollution is associated with increased risk for heart and lung diseases. (Andrew Grover)

At a city council meeting on Sept. 5, Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth signed a proclamation declaring the September to be Idle-Free Month, in the interest of cutting down on air pollution.

 “Air pollution is a major health and environmental concern throughout the state of Utah, and motor vehicles are significant sources of air pollution,” said Applegarth, reading from his official proclamation. “Everybody can turn their key and be idle free. By cutting back on idling, community members can join together to limit the negative environmental effects that idling creates, and thereby preserve the health and promote the prosperity of Riverton City and its inhabitants.”

 September heralds the start of the school year, and, with it, lots and lots of idling. It’s tempting to leave your car running while waiting to pick up your kids from school, but doing this actually has a substantial impact on the air quality in your immediate vicinity. The EPA has found that in the hours where parents pick up their children, school grounds show significantly elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other toxins.

 The area around a school is one of the worst places there is for extra air pollution. Air pollution is bad for everyone, but according to the EPA, it’s especially harmful to kids. 

“Children’s lungs are still developing, and when they are exposed to elevated levels of these pollutants, children have an increased risk of developing asthma, respiratory problems and other adverse health effects.”

“In addition to health impacts, air pollution imposes significant economic costs,” said Applegarth. The US Department of Energy estimates that personal vehicle idling wastes more than 3 billion gallons of fuel across the United States annually—enough fuel wastage to generate around 30 million tons of CO2 every year.

 Your car burns through a lot more fuel when it’s idle than when it’s moving. According to the California Energy Commission, this is because an idle car engine doesn’t operate at its optimal temperature. As a result, the fuel is only partially combusted, which in turn leads to residue buildup that can damage engine components. 

 Personal vehicles, idling or not, account for only a fraction of Utah’s air pollution problems. The recent oppressive blanket of smog that choked out the area in the first week of September was primarily the result of wildfires, and much of the rest of Utah’s air pollution comes from industrial sources, such as the  oil refineries and the Kennecott Copper Mine. 

 Banishing statewide air pollution problems will require a lot more than cutting back on idling, but the idle-free initiative is more about preventing pollution on a smaller scale. Turning your car off instead of running it in idle may not make much of an impact on a valleywide inversion, but it can make a big difference to the air quality in more localized areas: in a shopping center parking lot, or your neighborhood, or around your child’s school. And improving just these areas can make a big difference to your quality of life, or to your child’s. Every little bit counts. 

 “I would just encourage you, as the proclamation says, to be conscious of pollution, and help cut back on it in every way you can, particularly on idling,” said Applegarth. “It doesn’t take very long to just turn the key and sit there until you’re ready to go and start the engine up again.” 

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