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Environmental health issues facing Missoula Valley

John Sieber

Missoula's mountain valley topography and growing population demand that we as citizens and guests, find ways to limit and reduce air pollution in the valley. We want to continue to maintain and improve on the air quality gains that have been made in the past.
Missoula is a city located in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana. The Missoula urban area, located in a mountain valley, contains over 100,000 people and is the largest urban area in the United States surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. Because of the mountain valley topography, winter temperature inversions that trap pollution are common. To maintain and improve air quality in Missoula, the growing population of the valley will have to treat the air shed with extra care and continue to find methods of lowering sources of pollution.
Particulate Matter and carbon monoxide are two issues that local environmental quality specialists identify as significant pollutants. The 1967 Montana Clean Air Act authorized local air pollution control programs. By 1969, the Missoula City-County Health Department had developed a local air pollution control program and assumed responsibility for most sources of air pollution in Missoula County. The first recorded violations were 1969 for particulates and 1977 for carbon monoxide.
Because the National Ambient Air Quality Standards were exceeded, Missoula had to write State Implementation Plans detailing how Missoula would attain and then maintain pollution levels below the federal standards. Several factors were included in that plan that helped to control particulate matter and carbon monoxide levels. They are as follows:
1) The wood stove removal program
2) The use of de-icer in place of street sand on many streets
3) Prompt street sweeping in spring
4) Regulations that require most new vehicle use areas, to be paved inside the Air Stagnation Zone 
Additionally cars, such as Missoula's GREEN TAXI Toyota Prius help reduce carbon monoxide levels with it's practically ZERO emissions.
Reducing idling, reduces air pollution. Vehicle exhaust contains at least 21 air toxins which, by definition, are hazardous to human health. Major pollutants from automobiles include hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, all of which have significant health and environmental impacts. Emissions from idling vehicles can be as much as 20 times greater than those from one traveling at 32 mph. Many communities in the United States and Canada have, or are considering, ordinances that restrict excessive vehicle idling in order to improve air quality and protect citizen's health.
Most of this information was provided by Missoula County Environmental Health Department. 

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