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Air pollution causes an average of two or more years to be lost from the lives of Utahns. Pollution from idling is estimated to contribute to one third of all of Utah's emissions, but no studies in Cache County have examined how metal content in the atmosphere changes with distance from idling zones. Lichens can be used to monitor type and level of airborne contaminants in air pollution. The objective of this study is to determine if lichens' metal content varies with proximity to the idling zones in front of schools in Cache County. We predict that the lichens closer to idling sources will have higher levels of atmospheric metals, specifically: Hg, Cd, V, Se, As, Co, Cu, Pb, Sb, Zn, Cr, and Ni.

We identified six schools with trees that were at least 30 cm diameter at breast height (1.37 m) in each of three areas: 0–10, 20–50, and 60–90 m from the idling zone. Lichens were removed from the tree bark; freeze dried; homogenized; and then analyzed for C%, N%, and heavy metal content. I will use one-way analysis of variance and a post hoc test to determine whether lichens closer to idling zones have higher levels of heavy metals. This study will help address the serious problem of air pollution by better informing drivers, educators, school administrators, and county officials of the consequences of allowing vehicles to idle in school zones.


Utah State University

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Life Sciences

Using Lichens as Bioindicators of Air Pollutant Concentrations at Cache Valley Elementary Schools

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