In Utah, the drying up of the Great Salt Lake is leading to horrible pollution as it is expelling dust with toxic chemicals like arsenic into the air. The Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere and is drying up because of climate change along with water usage in the state.
The water has dropped to the lowest point in history. When the water dries up, the leftover dried out lake bed can be blown with heavy wind and taken to nearby communities like Salt Lake City. Heavy metals like arsenic, as well as calcium and sulfur, are being released into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency says that breathing in arsenic can cause lung cancer, as well as skin, cardiovascular and neurological issues. Parts of the exposed lake bed are also contaminated with residue from copper and silver mining.
Kevin Perry, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Utah who has studied the dust, said that the dust “takes decades … of exposure in order to manifest itself in health issues and so it’s a long term concern,” Perry said. “If the lake remains low for decades and the surface continues to pump dust into the communities, then we’ll eventually start to see impacts. “
“What I’m more concerned about are these short duration plumes that come off the lake that impact people’s health immediately,” he added.
Unfortunately, Utah is not the only one experiencing air pollution from died up bodies of water. California’s Salton Sea is drying up and sending dust flying into the air as well as Iran’s salty Lake Urmia, Africa’s Lake Chad, and even the Caspian Sea.
Although climate change is making the drought in the state much worse, the public’s water usage is also a huge contributing factor. Hay is the largest crop in Utah, which is one of the most water-intensive crops that is used to feed cattle to grow for human consumption. Hay represents 68 percent of the state’s water use.
The animals in the area are also suffering as they are not getting the nutrients they need from the disappearing lake. Microbialites that live on the bottom of the lake can dry out and die within weeks but take years to recover, affecting the dozens of wildlife species that depend on them for food.
Sign this petition to ask Salt Lake City Officials to prevent the Great Salt Lake from drying up!
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