I love the Wasatch Front, but I have to leave it

20140121-_DSC9867I love the Salt Lake City area. When my wife and I got married, we were living in different cities, Sacramento and Las Vegas, respectively. We decided to relocate to Salt Lake City to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the vibrant community, and the number of friends and family we had in the area. Over nine years later, I still love it, but I have to leave it.

In January 2009, we had our first child. He was born with a rare limb defect: macrodactyly. The thumb and first two fingers on his left hand are much larger than the others, even larger than mine. He’s also developmentally delayed and has a diagnosis of autism. He eats fewer than a dozen different foods, has extreme difficulty in communicating, and has to retreat from loud environments. We had always just kind of figured that he’s just a different kid and we’ve grown to love his little quirks.

When our second one came around, we were certain we’d hit the new kid jackpot. He was a breeze compared to the first, even though we had to have him on Neocate, a special formula for over-sensitive guts. But once the Neocate was no longer covered by insurance, he stopped using words, never had a normal stool, and was generally cranky and disagreeable. And yes, he was also diagnosed with developmental delays and autism. This one was much harder because of the regression.

We’ve done a lot to try to fix our boys, but modern medicine keeps on shrugging at them and acting as if there is nothing to be done. We’ve since gotten allergy testing showing a wide variety of food allergies and have gone through genetic testing. Both boys tested positive for a gene called MTHFR a1298c. The short version of this gene is that it impairs the ability of your body to process and remove environmental toxins. Kids with this mutation often can’t get vaccines because while normal kids can eliminate the small amounts of aluminum, mercury, and what have you contained in them, they cannot.

So what does all of this have to do with the decision to move away from the Wasatch Front?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s the pollution. Salt Lake County ranks as one of the 10% dirtiest counties in the country. Copper, lead, and arsenic, all of which our boys test high for, have releases in the millions or tens of millions of pounds per year range. Most kids may just hack a bit and get better when the inversion clears, but our boys can’t get that crud out of their system easily at all. Since toxic levels of these metals can cause symptoms of autism, we’re left with little choice but to try to limit their exposure.

Since the pollution hasn’t been getting better and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of efforts to remedy this quickly, we’re putting our house on the market (a very nicely maintained and improved 4 bed, 2 bed in Sandy, if you’re interested) and planning a move to Cedar City this summer, where they rank among the cleanest 20% of all counties in the country. I’m taking with me my white-collar telecommuter job and most of my recommendations to settle in the urbanized parts of the state. My mother, who purchased a townhouse in Murray just last year, will probably pick up stakes and leave the poor air quality as well since it makes her asthma flare up. I’ve had many friends who have expressed envy that I have the employment flexibility to do this and would love to follow in my footsteps.

Unfortunately, I think the people who get to make the policy decisions aren’t going to take the pollution problem seriously enough as long as more people are willing to tolerate it than are willing and able to vote with their feet. Despite several particularly bad years for air quality, most of the changes have been gradual and modest and do not target the largest releaser, the Kennecot mine. If there’s no hope for clean air in the Salt Lake Valley, I’ll be more than happy to enjoy the clear and clean skies of Cedar Valley instead.

Iron County, ho!

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