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Idahoans Can Fight Bad Air During Winter Inversions

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Pollution trapped during winter inversions can make air dangerous for sensitive groups, including children and older people. (Charles Knowles/Flickr)
Pollution trapped during winter inversions can make air dangerous for sensitive groups, including children and older people. (Charles Knowles/Flickr)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID - Producer, Contact
December 23, 2019

BOISE, Idaho -- The winter inversion season is a reminder of the daily pollution seen in valley communities across the West.

Inversions are weather patterns that occur when warm air acts like a lid, trapping colder air in valleys and causing stagnation.

When it's unable to move, air quality suffers and can even be dangerous for sensitive populations, including children and older people.

Austin Walkins, a senior conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League, says inversions on their own aren't necessarily bad, but are intensified by certain activities.

"Pollution that comes from vehicle tailpipes, from wood stoves, from industrial facilities, normally goes up in the air, mixes and then gets blown away and dispersed," he points out. "During inversions, all of that just gets stuck in these valley communities. And so, it starts to have a really significant impact on public health."

Walkins says folks can improve air quality during inversions by limiting what they burn in wood stoves and by driving less. He suggests taking public transit if it's an option.

Walkins says he hears resistance from people who say one less car on the road won't help. But he maintains getting everybody on board is integral to protecting public health during an inversion.

"Every single bit of air pollution that we can keep out of the air benefits everyone," he stresses. "So, we encourage folks to be that leader in their community and say, you know, 'I know that everyone else is still driving, but I'm going to take the bus, and then I'm going to challenge my friends and family to take the bus.'"

Walkins commends Valley Regional Transit in the fight against tailpipe pollution with its recent purchase of eight electric buses. The low-emission transporters coming to the Treasure Valley will be the first mass transit electric buses in Idaho.

Disclosure: Idaho Conservation League contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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