Utah Doctors Speak Out on Current Air Quality


For Immediate Release                                                               December 13, 2017

Utah Doctors Speak Out on Current Air Quality 


(Dec. 13, 2017 – Salt Lake City, UT) – The Board of Directors of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) is urging the public to stay indoors as much as possible during this long spell of worsening air in the Wasatch Front.   Board Member and pulmonologist, Dr. Robert Paine said, “These intense spikes, even if they are brief, have their own health consequences, some of which can be life altering and permanent.  Acute particulate pollution episodes such as these are responsible for increased rates of heart attacks, sudden death, asthma attacks and pneumonia, in addition to multiple effects in other body systems.”

The medical research has long since debunked the idea that levels of pollution this high are only unhealthy for sensitive groups.  According to Dr. Brian Moench, UPHE Founder and Board President, “This recurring refrain contributes to the dismissive attitude of many, especially some legislators, because most people are not in those sensitive groups.  This helps people write off the issue because they believe it is someone else’s health risk, but not theirs.  Medical research tells us very clearly that even air pollution at very low levels still compromises personal and public health. This effect is magnified in the face of high levels of particulate pollution such as we are now experiencing.”  He adds, “We should be honest with the public.  Some people will die from these levels of air pollution, from heart attacks, strokes, abnormal heart rhythms, pneumonia, miscarriages, birth defects and stillbirths.”   

UPHE Executive Director, Denni Cawley said “We ask schools to keep children indoors.  The new recess guidance by the Utah Asthma Program specifies when ALL children should be indoors.  Given what we know of how levels of pollution below EPA standards can already damage our bodies’ systems, we would advocate for stricter standards. A UNICEF working paper released in November 2017 highlights the body of research that shows air pollution’s negative impact on the developing brain of children.”

UPHE is also concerned about direction that the current U.S. administration and legislators is taking in policies that affect our environment and ultimately our families’ health.  Air pollution on the Wasatch Front is a recurring, genuine health crises, and the direction of the federal government will only make it worse.  The recently passed House and Senate tax bills contain alarming alterations of the tax structure that will paralyze clean energy investments and solidify dependency on dirty energy.  Opening public lands to extractive industries and lessening these companies’ taxes will only add to the air pollution throughout Utah.

UPHE Board Member and emergency room doctor, Howie Garber, MD reiterates that “Numerous studies show that heart attacks and strokes increase on the same day as pollution spikes, some even within a matter of hours.”

UPHE encourages the community to do its part in following mandatory action or no-burn days, not idle their cars, and plan their trips to reduce cold starts in vehicles. Here are other tips:

–       If you have to drive, keep your car on recirculate

–       Stay indoors as much as possible

–       Absolutely do not exercise outside

–       Vacuum out floor registers

–       Keep HEPA filter running day and night

–       Asthmatics should closely monitor peak flow

–       Avoid idling your cars, especially at drive thru locations during red air days (fast food restaurants, holiday light shows)

In early January, UPHE will release its annual End of the Year Report on Air Pollution and Health Research.  Parents, families, communities are asked to speak out to our leaders on how important clean air is for their health.



Denni Cawley –  Executive Director, UPHE, 385-707-3677dcawleyuphe@gmail.com

Dr. Brian Moench – Board President, UPHE, 801-243-9089drmoench@yahoo.com


Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment was formed in 2007 during one of Utah’s worse inversions.  The organization consists of approximately 400 medical professionals within Utah, and another 4,000 supporting members of the public.  UPHE is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the citizens of Utah by promoting science- based health education and interventions that result in progressive and measurable improvements to the environment. UPHE can be found at www.uphe.org or on Facebook.

UPHE Awarded EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant

We are excited to announce that UPHE has been awarded our first federal grant from the EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program to protect children from lead poisoning.  This is especially important after reports on lead being present in the drinking water of more than 200 Utah schools and our state being #3 in the nation for toxic releases. UPHE is co-chair of the Utah Lead Coalition, which is working to identify more children at risk for lead poisoning.

UPHE challenges plans to lease Utah lands for fracking

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SLTRIB Article: Federal oil and gas leases mired in protests over pollution worries for Utah’s Uinta Basin


For Immediate Release, October 2, 2017

Contacts: Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 925-2521, ddascalujoffe@biologicaldiversity.org

Dr. Brian Moench, UPHE, (801) 243-9089, drmoench@yahoo.com

Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3051, gabby.brown@sierraclub.org

Trump’s Utah Fracking Plan Challenged as Urgent Public Health Threat

SALT LAKE CITY― Conservation groups today challenged a Bureau of Land Management plan to lease 94,000 acres of public lands for fracking in Utah’s Duchesne, Uintah and Emery counties ― a rural region with air quality as bad as Los Angeles due to decades of fossil fuel development.

The administrative protest details the agency’s failure to address how fracking will worsen pollution and threaten endangered species and public health in the area, as required by federal law.

“The Uintah Basin’s already choking on oil industry pollution, but the Trump administration is ignoring air quality in its rush to frack every square inch of public land,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This leasing plan disregards grave risks to public health and endangered species in favor of short-term profits for fossil fuel companies.”

Parcels to be auctioned in December are located in and near Utah’s Uintah Basin, where ozone pollution already exceeds federal limits. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to list the region as a non-attainment area this fall, which will require additional steps to control ozone.

Fracking causes most of the basin’s ozone pollution, but the BLM has refused to analyze whether more fracking would exceed federal ozone standards, a requirement under the Clean Air Act. Health studies have linked ozone exposure to still births, premature death and other health problems.

“Air pollution studies have documented what can only be described as a pollution crisis created by the existing oil and gas activity in the Uinta Basin. A pollution crisis will inevitably lead to a public health crisis, and there is preliminary evidence that one may already be occurring with high rates of perinatal deaths in the Uinta Basin,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “The health risks go well beyond ozone and particulate pollution. Although VOCs are not addressed by EPA national standards, they likely represent the greatest toxicity to the population, especially for infants and pregnant mothers. Under these circumstances, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment join many other groups in calling for an immediate suspension of new leasing in the Basin.”

The BLM failed to adequately analyze the greenhouse gas pollution that would result from more fracking or the impacts from that pollution. It also failed to ensure the protection of several endangered species, including the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and Mexican spotted owl. The Endangered Species Act requires the agency to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect those species from fracking.

“It is unacceptable that BLM is moving forward with this lease sale, ignoring concerns from Governor Herbert and the public,” said Lena Moffitt, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “This land has incredible value to its residents and visitors, and allowing drilling to occur here would threaten the area’s precious cultural and natural resources. This decision continues the Trump administration’s attack on our national parks and public lands. Our parks and public lands are for Americans to enjoy and explore, not to be exploited for fossil fuel industry profits.”


Download a copy of the protest here.


Letter to the Clean Air Caucus

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September 19, 2017

Dear Clean Air Caucus Co-Chairs:

We understand that you have invited James Enstrom to speak to the Caucus this evening.  I’m sharing with you a letter signed by the Board of Directors of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment as our organization is deeply concerned about the misleading messages that he will leave the group. His research contradicts the conclusions of numerous other research on air pollution and health.  This is demonstrated in the appendix of studies that we have included in this letter.

I would like to say that I am very proud of the composition of UPHE’s Board. Since I joined UPHE more than a year ago, our Board has developed into a group with decades of medical expertise and who care deeply for the community.  We have two pulmunologists, a cardiologist, an OB-GYN, an anesthesiologist and an ER doctor, not to mention a member of media and a representative from the business sector.  I hope that you would share this letter with your colleagues who are part of the Caucus and take a few moments to read this prior to or after the meeting.

We thank the Clean Air Caucus for all you’ve done to improve our air quality. We believe that you will keep on doing so with the dedication and commitment to stand up and speak out for the health of Utah’s families.


Denni Cawley

Executive Director


UPHE Advisory on Recent Air Quality

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For Immediate Release                                                               September 7, 2017


Dr. Brian Moench – Board President, UPHE, 801-243-9089, drmoench@yahoo.com

Denni Cawley –  Executive Director, UPHE, 385-707-3677, dcawleyuphe@gmail.com


UPHE Advisory on Recent Air Quality


Air quality conditions on the Wasatch Front have deteriorated significantly in the last several days.   The pollution in fact may be a worse health hazard than during typical winter inversions because ozone is also elevated which does not typically happen during winter inversions.  The health impact of simultaneously high ozone and high PM2.5 is certainly additive, but it may be synergistic, i.e. have a multiplier effect.


Both PM2.5 and ozone have been shown to cause widespread health consequences, affecting all major organ systems–the heart, blood vessels, lungs, brain and placenta.   Strenuous exercise can increase the inhalation of pollution as much as ten times compared to rest.  The younger the person the more serious the exposure because the biological barriers that exist in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and the brain are less well developed and therefore less protective.  Grade school and junior high age children are particularly affected by strenuous exercise in these circumstances.


Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) recommend that if current conditions persist, Wasatch children and adolescents not exercise outdoors or engage in athletic activities until conditions improve, especially in the afternoon when the ozone levels are elevated.


30 Utah Businesses Call on the Governor for Stronger Clean Air Policies

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, HEAL Utah and Western Resources support the 30 Utah businesses that are calling for stronger clean air policies.  Thank you to Nazz Kurth, Jon Rockefeller and Annette Lee of Petzl for hosting the press conference and to the following speakers: Lindsey Elliott and Jainee Dial (Wylder), Melanie Webb (Kuhl), and Kelly Lake (LUX Catering), and  Erin Strahm (Leaders for Clean Air).
Press coverage:

Press Conference by Utah Doctors on Recent Studies on Air Pollution and Deaths

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For Immediate Release                                                                           July 11, 2017


Denni Cawley –  Executive Director, UPHE, 385-707-3677, dcawleyuphe@gmail.com

Dr. Brian Moench – President, UPHE, 801-243-9089, drmoench@yahoo.com


Press Conference by Utah Doctors on Recent Studies on Air Pollution and Deaths

Dr. Brian Moench, Dr. Kirtly Jones, and Dr. Robert Paine of UPHE call for stronger action

 DETAILS: July 12, 2017 – 12:30 PM

Artspace Commons Conference Room at 824 S 400 W, B113, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 – Door on east side of building


Board Members of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) will hold a press conference on the serious implications of recent studies that show levels of pollutants, such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone that are well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards, are strongly associated with increased rates of mortality and stillbirths. The physicians will share information on what the public can do to protect themselves and call on Utah’s leaders take decisive action to protect the public through better policies on vehicle emissions, fireworks, wood burning, buildings and freeway development.  UPHE will also introduce their newest Board Member, Dr. Robert Paine who has just completed his term on the State Air Quality Board.

study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the largest studies of its kind to date involving 61 million people throughout the United States, strengthens the association between premature death and PM2.5 and ozone.  Mortality increased by 7.3% for every 10ug/m3of chronic PM2.5 exposure.  The increase in mortality for ozone is 1.1% for every 10 ppb.  According to UPHE Board President, Dr. Brian Moench, “UPHE has always advocated that there is no safe level of air pollution and EPA standards are inadequate.  We have estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 people Utah die annually because of our air pollution.  These studies firmly establish the scientific validity of those estimations.”

Another brand-new study showed that chronic and acute ozone exposure the week prior to delivery is associated with the risk of stillbirth.  To quote the study: Overall, the levels of exposure in all time windows were fairly moderate, and when averaged over time did not exceed US ambient air quality standards…Both chronic and acute prenatal exposures to O3 were associated with increased risk of stillbirth.

UPHE has raised concern over high perinatal deaths in Vernal, UT where there is significant pollution from the oil and gas industry in the region and see this as a relevant new study.  “This is the strongest study showing a link to air pollution (ozone) and stillbirth,” says Dr. Kirtly Jones, UPHE Board Member and Professor Emerita in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Utah. “It is time for Utah to do more to decrease air pollution in our communities.”

“This important study on air pollution and mortality adds a new perspective to the air quality discussions in Utah.  Although much of the public focus is on inversions and periods of more intense pollution, this study demonstrates that year-round exposure, even to lower levels of PM2.5 has an important impact on mortality and re-emphasizes the benefits of measures to reduce emissions and improve air quality year round, “ says Dr. Robert Paine, UPHE Board Member and Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of the Division of Respiratory, Critical Care and Occupational Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine.  “It also confirms that the entire Medicare-eligible population is a “sensitive group” that experiences important health effects from even lower levels of pollution and that rural individuals have health effects from pollution that are at least as great as those seen in city dwellers.   Decisions to tolerate higher levels of pollution will result in significant adverse effects for health and for health care costs for all of our citizens.”

With several counties in non-attainment of EPA standards, UPHE is compelled to share the implications of these major studies on air pollution and health to better inform our community and leaders so that we act at all levels.



Di, Q. et al. Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population. New England Journal of Medicine 376,2513–2522 (2017). (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1702747)

Mendola, P. et al. Chronic and Acute Ozone Exposure in the Week Prior to Delivery Is Associated with the Risk of Stillbirth. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 14, (2017). (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28684711)

Another relevant article:

Increased air pollution cuts victims’ lifespan by a decade, costing billions (https://phys.org/news/2017-07-air-pollution-victims-lifespan-decade.html) 


TAKE ACTION! UPHE joins partners in urging EPA to implement Chemical Disaster Rule updates

Ask court to stop Trump from delaying safety protections for millions
JUNE 22, 2017


Washington, D.C. —Today, a coalition of groups representing workers, scientists and community members near chemical facilities filed a motion seeking emergency relief from the D.C Circuit court to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from delaying needed updates to the agency’s Risk Management Program, also known as theChemical Disaster Rule.

Last week, bowing to pressure from the oil and chemical industries, and states aligned with those industries, EPA published a final rule putting these commonsense protections against chemical disasters on hold for an unprecedented period of time—until February 2019.

“EPA’s sudden delay irresponsibly endangers workers, first responders, and communities living near chemical facilities.  It also represents a shocking disregard for the rule of law and the process the government is required to follow before it takes away any health and safety protections under the Clean Air Act,” said Gordon Sommers an attorney with Earthjustice, representing fence-line community groups.

“This is a startling nullification of vital protections that puts the lives of emergency responders, workers and community members in jeopardy,” said Pam Nixon, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

When developing the Chemical Disaster Rule, EPA determined that its prior regulations failed to prevent over 2,000 chemical accidents around the country over a 10-year period.

EPA’s own data shows there will in all likelihood be at least 300 more accidents involving dangerous chemicals during this nearly two year delay.

“The Chemical Disaster Rule is designed to prevent chemical accidents—and to ensure community members have adequate emergency response in place to reduce harm if they do happen,” said Dr. Bakeyah Nelson, executive director of Air Alliance Houston. “Preparation for an emergency in these situations, particularly in overburdened communities like ours along the Houston Ship Channel, can be the difference between life and death.”

“In issuing this delay, EPA ignores determinations it made after years of work and says it will suddenly reconsider the protections based on industry requests. That’s not just bad policy—it’s also illegal.  That’s why groups from around the country are now suing to stop this delay,” said Gordon Sommers.

From 2004 to 2013 alone, more than 2,200 chemical accidents were reported at hazardous facilities, over 1,500 of which caused reported harm. These accidents killed 59 people; caused more than more than 17,000 to be injured, hospitalized, or to seek medical care, and nearly half a million to evacuate or shelter in place to try to avoid chemical exposure and other harm; and caused more than $2 billion in property damage. No month passed during the studied decade without at least 8 accidents at or near a chemical facility in the United States. And communities continue to live under the constant threat of a chemical catastrophe.

The new rules would protect both workers and fence-line communities by strengthening emergency preparedness and coordination with local first responders and forcing chemical facilities with the worst accident records, such as petroleum refineries, to consider implementing available safety precautions to save lives and prevent harm.

“Commonsense safeguards to protect frontline communities, including our children, from the dangers of chemical explosions. Who could possibly be against that?” says Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities against Toxics.  “We can’t let Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, get away with this.”

“Texas has a long dark history of disasters at industrial facilities resulting in the tragic loss of life and devastating injuries to plant workers. Texas communities are also at risk from chemical disasters that can send toxic clouds into the air that residents have to breathe and are too often asked to shelter-in-place inside their homes. Dozens of communities in Texas need this EPA rule to be adopted quickly, “said Neil Carman, Clean Air Program Director for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter.

“There are refineries and other chemical facilities that are located near highly-populated areas in Utah. EPA Administrator Pruitt cannot just do whatever he wants, and ignore the clear threat to health and safety that chemical facilities pose in favor of undoing essential protections to boost the profits of wealthy corporations.  Our lives depend on these regulations,” said Denni Cawley, executive director for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

About 177 million Americans live in the worst-case scenario zones for a chemical disaster.  At least one in three schoolchildren in America attends a school within the vulnerability zone of a hazardous facilityBlack, Latino and low-income communities are disproportionately at-risk.

Earthjustice represents Air Alliance Houston, California Communities Against Toxics, Clean Air Council, Coalition For A Safe Environment, Community In-Power & Development Association, Del Amo Action Committee, Environmental Integrity Project, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.  United Steelworkers is represented by Santarella & Eckert, LLC.



EPA Delays in Reducing Dangerous Smog Pollution

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For Immediate Release, June 7, 2017

Contact: Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 817-8121, bhartl@biologicaldiversity.org
Denni Cawley, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, (385) 707-3677, dcawleyuphe@gmail.com

Public Records Sought on EPA Delays in Reducing Dangerous Smog Pollution

Pruitt Unilaterally Postponed Requirements for States to Cut Harmful Ozone

WASHINGTON— Public-interest groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request today seeking public records illuminating Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to unlawfully delay, by a year, a Clean Air Act requirement for states to reduce dangerous ozone pollution.

The records request was made by the Center for Biological Diversity and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

Each year ground-level ozone pollution causes more than 1,000 premature deaths, millions of asthma attacks and billions of dollars in lost productivity. Despite these well-documented harms from ozone pollution, Pruitt announced this week that the EPA will delay until October 2018 the deadline for states to provide evidence they are complying with the healthier ozone level.

The delay, which Pruitt asserts is needed to gather additional information, ignores the fact that all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and six tribal areas have already submitted all the information the EPA needs to make the determinations.

“Americans have a right to know why the EPA is obstructing these urgent, lifesaving measures recommended by the agency’s own scientists,” said Brett Hartl, the Center’s government affairs director. “Once all the facts are laid bare, we’re likely to discover a trove of details about Pruitt’s push to help polluters. And I bet we’ll find virtually no mention of helping the millions of Americans struggling with life-threatening asthma attacks.”

“Delaying compliance means another year where our families will face higher rates of disease and more premature deaths,” said Dr. Brian Moench, a member of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment board. “This is another example of the new EPA acting to protect polluting fossil fuel industries instead of public health.”

Before Pruitt’s decision, states were required to submit information to the EPA this year on whether they were meeting the new 70 parts per billion ozone standards. Under the Clean Air Act, after providing this information, states must develop plans to reduce pollution and meet the new standards.

Now states will have an additional year — with a new October 2018 deadline — prior to even beginning to take action to address ozone pollution.

“This repulsive decision by Pruitt is nothing more than a gift to polluting industries so his cronies can keep trying to undermine this critical safeguard,” said Hartl. “Pruitt’s only been at the EPA for a few months, but he’s already taken virtually every opportunity to sacrifice human health and the environment simply to inflate corporate profits.”

An EPA study found that Clean Air Act programs to reduce ozone pollution prevented more than 4,300 deaths and 3.2 million lost school days in 2010 alone. The Clean Air Act has also helped to keep the U.S. economy healthy by creating jobs, with more than 1.7 million Americans employed in the environmental technology industry helping to keep our air clean.


UPHE Statement on the US government reneging on Paris climate commitments

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For Immediate Release                                                                           June 2, 2017 

UPHE Statement on the US government reneging on Paris climate commitments

Dr. Howie Garber, UPHE Board Member will speak at the Pride March and Rally today

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) is one with nations around the world, state and local government leaders and everyone in the community who expressed their dismay, frustration and anger at the decision to withdraw the United States from our commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

Less we forget, this is a health, social justice and economic issue. There are co-benefits to reducing carbon emissions and air pollutants, and this is the message of the global Unmask My City campaign that UPHE launched in Salt Lake City last month.  Reducing air pollution improves health outcomes and reduces emissions of major climate pollutants such as CO2, black carbon and methane.  Many parts of the world are already impacted by a warming planet and extreme weather events.  In Utah, we expect health impacts from flooding, dust storms, wildfires and the spread of vector-borne diseases.

“From my experience as an ER physician, I have learned that one of the best ways to prevent a catastrophe is to envision it happening,” says Dr. Howie Garber. “Adapting to climate change will require personal sacrifice from everyone. Environmental protection is human protection and protection of our collective future as a species.”   Dr. Howie Garber, a member of UPHE’s Board of Directors, will speak at the Pride March and Rally at Salt Lake City today from 5 – 8 pm, Harvey Milk Blvd/900 E.  Speeches start at 6 pm. 

“We have a very small window to reverse or mitigate the course of climate change and air pollution, and this is critical given people around the world are affected right now. We need to think and act as global citizens,” says UPHE Executive Director Denni Cawley.  “We say that everyone deserves to breathe clean air and enjoy a stable climate so UPHE will bring this message to more health professionals, to our leaders and to the community.”

UPHE Board President, Dr. Brian Moench echoes the sentiment of the French President, “Despite the bewildering move by the White House, we will be working even harder to make the climate, our air, the environment, and the planet ‘great again.’”


UPHE Air Pollution and Climate Change

Utah Stories article – UPHE at the March for Science

March for Science

See May 22 Utah Stories Magazine article about the March for Science in the link below:

Salt Lake Science March Draws Support From All Walks of Utah Life

Other News Articles:

Around 3,000 people turned out for the March for Science in SLC on April 22 (and we hear hundreds in satellite marches around Utah)! If you missed the march, listen to the audio version of the KUER report below to get a quick feel of the great energy of the crowd during the event. This was a non-partisan march that focused on the benefits of science to society and on why we need our government to fund critical agencies that support research, education and protect our environment.


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PRESS STATEMENT                                                                      April 19, 2017



Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) congratulates Chevron for making a commitment to produce and sell Tier 3 fuels in Utah by the end of 2019 and recognizes Governor Herbert’s support for this move.   If other refineries make the same commitment, we believe there will be a noticeable improvement in our air quality, and a measurable reduction in the many health consequences of air pollution.

Just this week the American Lung Association ranked the Salt Lake metro area as the 20th worst urban area for ozone pollution.  Ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent and has been proven to cause lung damage and increase a person’s risk for heart attacks, strokes, and premature death.  Short-term ozone has also been linked to impaired fetal development and poor pregnancy outcomes which can have life-long adverse health consequences.

UPHE calls on other refiners to follow Chevron’s lead, and do what’s right for our community in reducing air pollution in the state, particularly considering the growing population in the Wasatch Front.



Denni Cawley, UPHE Executive Director, 385-707-3677dcawleyuphe@gmail.com

Global Asbestos Awareness Week

Each year, the first week of April is dedicated to raising awareness about asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that has been linked to diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. The latter is a rare and aggressive cancer that forms in the lining of an organ, most often that of the lungs, but it can also develop around the heart and abdomen. Asbestos becomes a risk to health when the material is disturbed and broken into small particles that can easily become airborne and inhaled. Global Asbestos Awareness Week is important because these diseases are completely preventable, and the best way to protect yourself is through education.

So where can asbestos still be found? Currently asbestos is not entirely banned in the United States and can still be found in a variety of products, including potting soil, vehicle parts, and insulation. A current list of allowable uses of asbestos can be found here, but the greatest risk for exposure comes from products installed prior to federal regulations taking effect. The CDC reports that “Current exposures to commercial asbestos in the United States occur predominantly during maintenance operations and remediation of older buildings containing asbestos.” This can impact people working in construction, demolition, plumbing, and the shipbuilding or repair industries, to name a few. And unfortunately even though asbestos is regulated, younger people are still developing asbestos-related illnesses.

Things you can do:

  1. Post on social media using #GAAW or #2017GAAW to help raise awareness
  2. Identify possible sources of exposure in your life and understand the risk
    •  If you have an older home (built before 1970) it might be worthwhile to have your house checked for asbestos, especially before beginning any home renovations
  3. Express concern to your elected officials

Although asbestos is regulated, it is not entirely banned in the United States. However, the EPA announced in the fall of 2016 that it will review ten chemicals for potential future regulation, and asbestos was included in that list.

If you’d like more information or updates on asbestos and mesothelioma, check out the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center.

*Content from the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center.  UPHE is helping to share this information.


Press Statement: Doctors respond to new Executive Order that Repeals Climate Change Policies

PRESS STATEMENT                                                                      March 28, 2017

*Revised from original following the signing of the EO



The Trump administration is leading us down a path where there would be no turning back in terms of the damage to our health and our environment

(March 28, 2017 – Salt Lake City, UT) – President Trump signed an executive order that would include a review of the Clean Power Plan with the intent to begin a process to repeal the plan that reduces carbon pollution from power plants.  The order is also expected to rescind the moratorium on coal mining in federal lands.  “What the current President and his new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt are proposing, along with the elimination of many other environmental regulations that keep us healthy, amounts to an inexplicable war on public health, and contradicts worldwide scientific consensus on climate change,” says Dr. Brian Moench, Board President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. 

At its core, Pres. Obama’s Clean Power Plan was a critical program to protect public health in two ways–both from reduced pollution from coal and oil energy sources, and from its mitigation of the climate crisis by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which itself is the most serious long-term threat to public health, and its accompanying pollutants such as nitrogen oxides. The Clean Power Plan came about after thorough research, and years of work and outreach by the EPA.  It provided a flexible approach for states to meet their CO2 emission reduction goals.  The estimated health benefits of the plan are calculated in the billions, and the number of premature deaths from pollution that would be prevented is in the thousands.

Recently, the medical community formally joined the rest of the world’s scientific community in calling for urgent response to the climate crisis.  On March 15, a new consortium of 11 of the top national medical societies was launched, The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health. The groups represent almost half a million doctors, about half of all the doctors in the country. Their mission is to inform the public and policymakers “that climate change threatens the health of every American.”

Utah Physicians for a Health Environment asks our state and city leaders to recognize the danger of delaying implementation and speak out for the community in support of the Clean Power Plan.  “It’s time for state and city leaders to take action and stop this downward spiral,” says Denni Cawley, UPHE Executive Director.  “Physicist Dr. Robert Davies has said that we are at the ‘danger zone of climate disruption’.   The Trump administration is leading us down a path where there would be no turning back in terms of the damage to our health and our environment.”    



Denni Cawley, UPHE Executive Director, 385-707-3677dcawleyuphe@gmail.com

Brian Moench, UPHE President, 801-243-9089, drmoench@yahoo.com

Letter Released from Outdoor Industry Coalition for Clean Air to Utah Legislators

OI industry


Letter Released from Outdoor Industry Coalition for Clean Air to Utah Legislator

CLICK HERE For Full Coalition Letter

(January 23, 2017 – Salt Lake City, UT) – An outdoor industry coalition and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment have sent the attached letter to Governor Gary R. Herbert and Utah legislators last Friday, Jan. 20, in anticipation of the start of this week’s legislative session and recognition of the importance of better air quality for the outdoor industry.

The body of the letter may be found below.  The eleven outdoor businesses that have signed on to the letter include: Alta Ski Area, Armada Skis,  Black Diamond Equipment, Experticity, Goal Zero, Gregory Mountain Products, Patagonia SLC, Petzl, Scott Sports, Snowsports Industry America and Wasatch Touring.




We, the members of the Outdoor Industry, care deeply about our health and believe that good air quality is integral to the success of our industry.  We are teaming up with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) to bring attention to Utah’s air quality, the impact it has on public health and the outdoor industry, and to influence positive changes to our environment.

The Utah Outdoor Industry employs 65,000 people and adds $5.8 billion to Utah’s economy (Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation website). Many people move to Utah and decide to STAY for the beautiful landscapes and diverse outdoor experiences, including skiing, hiking/backpacking, biking, climbing and much more. Per Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s office: “Poor air quality increases health care costs, discourages recruitment of businesses and talent, dampens tourism, and is a black eye to the perception of Utah.”

We recognize that the quality of the air we breathe is critical to our health and our industry’s future. As a coalition, we are committed to taking action that will help improve and preserve Utah’s air quality, for our employees, our families, our friends and our customers who love the outdoors. With this interest, we support the right of Utahns to breathe clean air, make informed decisions regarding clean air and build a better way of life.

We urge our leaders to please make decisions that create a healthier and cleaner environment.  Our livelihood and our loved ones depend on you.


Outdoor Industry Coalition Members


clean air rally poster



SALT LAKE CITY — Clean air advocates gathered at a press conference Tuesday morning, Jan. 19 during yet another episode of dangerous air pollution to urge state officials to embrace bold proposals to reduce emissions.

The advocates are holding a press conference to inform the public about a major Clean Air rally scheduled for this coming Saturday afternoon, as well as to highlight a new Clean Air Blueprint which advocates have compiled.

Lastly, the clean air advocates will describe several key legislative proposals for which they are urging passage when the State Legislative session begins, within a week.

“Our health and our children’s future is under serious threat by our poor air quality,” says Denni Cawley, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.  “Air pollution affects our children’s brain development and can cause pregnancy complications, acute respiratory symptoms, heart attack, stroke and even death.  We need leaders who will truly speak and act in the best interests of the community.”

Levels of PM2.5 rose above 75ppm when a dangerous inversion hit just before New Year’s Day – twice as high as federal safety standards. In recent days, as a somewhat weaker inversion has settled, Utah has had numerous “yellow” air days, according to official state data, but the independent PurpleAir network has shown many sites with “red” air levels.

Saturday’s “Clean Air, No Excuses” rally – at 1 p.m. on Jan. 21 on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol — promises to draw a significant community of Utahns concerned about air quality. The rally will offer an array of speakers, plus opportunities for attendees to learn how they can become involved in campaigns to fight for clean air.

“The biggest barrier to clean air in Utah is political will and courage. Our ‘Clean Air, No Excuses’ rally is one way to apply political pressure to legislators that want to keep their heads in the smog, while also offering support to those awesome legislators willing to uphold their civic oath to protect the families of Utah,” said Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms For Clean Air.

The Clean Air blueprint presented by advocates at the press conference offers a straightforward series of recommendations for policymakers. Advocates point out that for more than 10 years, the air in Wasatch Front’s valleys has been out of compliance with federal safety standards for short-term, small-particle air pollution. The blueprint offers approximately 20 different policy recommendations addressing the three major categories which produce emissions: Vehicles, buildings and Industry.

“Too often, we hear policymakers say that there is little we can do to address dangerous air pollution,” says HEAL Utah’s Policy Director Ashley Soltysiak. “In fact, there are commonsense policy proposals we can and must embrace to ensure that Utah thrives for decades to come.”

Joro Walker, the Utah office director for Western Resource Advocates, added, “The law recognizes that Utahns are entitled to clean air.  Because air pollution along the Wasatch Front repeatedly exceeds national standards, our government is legally compelled to act quickly to reduce emissions of air pollution.  Our Clean Air Blueprint provides reasonable and effective measures for doing exactly that.”

Lastly, advocates highlighted several key proposals that the State Legislature will consider this coming session. One key proposal will be to extend a current state tax credit that supports electric vehicles, which has already expired if lawmakers don’t act. Another proposal would expand diesel emissions testing to additional counties along the Wasatch Front. A third priority is to ensure that the legislature fully funds the portions of Governor Gary Herbert’s budget, which offers several million dollars in new funding for clean air programs.

“Legislators must act with urgency to craft laws and regulations to maintain our clean air, water, and lands,” said Debbie Sigman, executive director of Breathe Utah. “Utahns have demonstrated that they are willing to act and change to care for our health, our children, and our economy. Citizens and legislators alike must make clean air a top Utah priority.”

“Today, we ask our leaders to promote clean air that supports our right to life.  With more than 60 percent of Utahns living in polluted areas susceptible to air pollution, our leaders need to act to preserve our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” added Jim Catlin, Utah Sierra Club Board Member.

Year-End Report on 2016 Air Pollution and Health Research


UPHE Releases Year-End Report on 2016 Air Pollution and Health Research

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) released the attached year-end report summarizing air pollution and health research for 2016:

Full report here:  2016 UPHE Air Pollution Research Report

News coverage:  Fox13 News

Research on air pollution’s effect on public health was strengthened and expanded significantly in 2016. Some of the most remarkable research centered on how air pollution contributes to pregnancy complications and impaired fetal development… A common denominator for air pollution’s connection to multiple diseases is the triggering of inflammation, affecting arteries and blood supply throughout the body. Intrauterine inflammation is known to be a pathway for multiple types of pregnancy complications. Air pollution at the level of the Wasatch Front’s annual average increases the risk of intrauterine inflammation by 240%.10  Much higher pollution levels, typical of our winter inversions will undoubtedly increase that risk…

These new research findings should compel Utah lawmakers to address these health hazards with meaningful legislation, going far beyond those of previous years.   UPHE calls on the Utah Legislature and the Governor’s office to make 2017 the year for cleaning up our air.

Key 2016 research include studies that showed:

  • Toxic, nano-sized particles called “magnetites” found in air pollution end up in our brains. People with higher concentrations of the metallic nanoparticles are known to be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s, and the kind of brain damage these “magnetites” can cause are consistent with the disease
  • How the Great London Smog event of 1952 was still impacting people’s health 60 years later.  Those who were infants or babies in-utero when they were exposed to the event (which only lasted 5 days), showed higher rates of respiratory disease measured several decades later
  • The 9/11 dust cloud from the collapse of the Twin Towers in 2001 was associated with significantly higher rates of premature birth and low birth weight. Even short-term exposure is associated with higher rates of pregnancy complications.  Episodes lasting only one to two days can be enough to trigger premature births


UPHE Op Ed on Trump and the Environment

Our own Ex. Dir., Denni Cawley, has a great Op Ed in the SL Tribune,  12/11/16, outlining why we are concerned about theTrump administration’s wholesale love affair with dirty energy.  It was written before Trump announced his nominees for EPA and Dept. of Interior; picks that would only have provoked an even stronger condemnation than reflected in the Op Ed.


Take Action: Keep Pruitt out of the EPA


President Elect-Trump has announced his choice of Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, to head the EPA.

Given Trump’s campaign rhetoric rejecting climate change and intentions to repeal all of Obama’s environmental regulations, this doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Pruitt has made it the signature of his career to sue the EPA in an attempt to stop or roll back virtually every major clean air, clean water regulation there is, and every and all climate related regulations.

This appointment spells disaster for air quality. A Pruitt led EPA will have direct consequences to the air quality along the Wasatch Front. Please help us in asking Utah Senators Hatch and Lee to deny the confirmation of Pruitt to the EPA.


UPHE members’ statements to be read at EPA public hearing on oil refineries

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) would like to add our strong support to the statements submitted by a few of our members whose families and loved ones have been directly affected by refinery emissions. These statements will be read along with UPHE’s statement at the Houston, TX public hearing on Nov. 17 (see below for full press release).  UPHE  submitted comments on the refinery rule last year but would like to emphasize our concern over exemptions and loopholes that would allow communities to be exposed to the toxic pollution that we are all trying to work to avoid.

So-called accidental releases, that can take a high share of refinery emissions, would truly amount to the exception swallowing up the rule.   The U.S. refinery industry is more accident prone than those in Europe because we are forcing our plants to produce beyond their designed capacity regardless of safety.  Refinery emissions contain benzene, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and VOCs such as toluene and xylene, several of which are carcinogens.  Acute and episodic exposure to VOCs can be more harmful than exposure averages.  UPHE has highlighted the danger of these pollutants on fetuses and newborns.  They harm our entire body’s system.

Exemptions on force majeure events and smoking flares cheat communities at risk of the protection they need. Let’s not stop where a true benefit of a strong rule may be found.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!  The EPA is taking in public comment until Dec. 19, 2016.



November 16, 2016


On Nov. 17, EPA To Hold Public Hearing On Toxic Air Threats from Oil Refineries

Testimony in Houston Will Address National Requirements for Protection from Air Pollution

Washington, D.C. –   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding a hearing in response to a petition from 11 community and environmental groups challenging the federal agency’s behind-closed-doors decision, giving  U.S. refineries free passes to ignore pollution limits and release uncontrolled amounts of toxic chemicals in certain instances.

What: EPA Hearing with public testimony on national air toxics standards for refineries, last-minute exemptions, and the need for communities to have the full protection from the Clean Air Act every day, not just sometimes.

When: November 17, from 2:00 – 8:00pm (Central time). Speakers may come any time.


Hartman Community Center

9311 East Ave. P.

Houston, TX 77012



Last December, after decades of inaction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally released important new air standards, tightening restrictions on the toxic pollution oil refineries can emit. The rules for the first time required over 140 refineries in the U.S. to monitor and report levels of benzene, a cancer-causing compound, at the boundaries of their properties and to cut emissions if they are too high. The rules targeted all oil refineries across the nation that are major air toxics sources, strengthening standards on emission sources like storage tanks, coker units, and flares, which burn off excess gases, but unfortunately the agency left key parts of its job undone by creating loopholes to several of these requirements at industry’s request and not taking further actions to assure communities are not exposed to unacceptable and unfair health risks .

After the public comment period closed, EPA created dangerous new exemptions from pollution limits during periods of upset or malfunction when refineries can release large amounts of toxic air pollution during short periods of time through pressure relief devices and smoking flares, and threatening the health and safety of communities nearby. EPA created these malfunction exemptions allowing refineries to release unlimited air pollution, without public notice or comment, a gift to the oil industry, meaning that refineries have a free pass to pollute uncontrollably at least once (and possibly twice) every three years for each affected unit, which could result in hundreds of free passes to pollute.

On Feb. 1, 2016 community and environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project, filed an agency petition  urging the EPA to take formal reconsideration action to remove the exemptions in the final rule that were added after the comment period closed.  A hearing on the petition was granted November 3 and EPA is taking comment on reconsideration through Dec. 19, to decide whether it should remove the loopholes in the health protections and whether the agency should ensure that fenceline monitoring applies at all times at all refineries.

Contact: Keith Rushing, Earthjustice, krushing@earthjustice.org; (202) 797-5236; (757) 897-2147; Emma Cheuse, Earthjustice,echeuse@earthjustice.org, (202) 745-5220;

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (Salt Lake City, UT), Denni Cawley, (385)707-3677, dcawleyuphe@gmail.com;

Juan Parras, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, (281) 513-7799, parras.juan@gmail.com;

Adrian Shelley or Brian Butler, Air Alliance Houston, (713) 702-8063, Adrian@airalliancehouston.org

Sparsh Khandeshi or Gabriel Clark-Leach, Environmental Integrity Project, (202) 263-4446, skhandeshi@environmentalintegrity.org;

Neil Carman, Sierra Club, 512-288-5772, neil.carman@sierraclub.org

Coalition For A Safe Environment (Wilmington, CA), Jesse Marquez, (310) 704-1265

Del Amo Action Committee (Torrance, CA), Cynthia Babich, (310) 769-4813

Louisiana Bucket Brigade (New Orleans), Anne Rolfes, (504) 484-3433


EPA Website on the reconsideration proceeding:


Community Groups’ Lawsuit and Full Reconsideration Petition for EPA to Strengthen Standards:


Community Groups’ Intervention Opposing Industry’s Lawsuit: