Key issues • Utah

All of northern Utah at risk for toxic dust from shrinking Great Salt Lake

All of northern Utah faces risk from dust storms laced with arsenic and other chemicals from a shrinking Great Salt Lake, a scientist warned a panel of lawmakers on Tuesday night. “The dust is dangerous regardless of what it’s made out of if the concentrations are high enough,” said Dr. Kevin Perry, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Utah.

Dr. Perry has been researching the dust generated by the increasingly exposed lake bed. He met with the Utah State Legislature’s bipartisan Clean Air Caucus, which is looking into bills dealing with air quality as a result of the dramatically declining Great Salt Lake. More than 800 miles of lake bed is now exposed as a result of the lake’s record low. Research has shown it has arsenic, lithium, copper and other metals in it that are naturally occurring in portions of the lake. Where water has kept it covered, that is no longer the case and dust storms are increasingly blowing it into areas around northern Utah.

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