From the Vault: Pollution problems |

From the Vault: Pollution problems

compiled by the Aspen Historical Society
One b/w photograph of Aspen, 1986. There is a dusting of snow on the ground and a fog hangs low over the town. The photo, in the January 9, 1986 Aspen Times, p. 5A, accompanied an article about poor air quality in Aspen.
Frank Martin |

“Aspen air quality threatens health,” announced an article in The Aspen Times on Jan. 9, 1986. The article reads in part, “It’s difficult to fathom that a small mountain town could have worse pollution problems than a much larger city, but in the case of air quality in Aspen, such an admission is true. Environmental Health officer Lee Cassin reported to the Pitkin County commissioners Monday that Aspen regularly exceeds federal standards for air quality. Airborne particulates generated primarily from wood burning, road grit and restaurant grill emissions exceed, on an annual average, the levels deemed healthy by the Environmental Protection Agency. Often, given the concentrations of these pollutants in a confined valley prone to temperature inversions, Aspen’s air quality is worse than much larger American cities, even ones with industry. And if you assume, as does Cassin, that three-quarters of all air pollution is invisible, then Aspen has a serious air pollution problem indeed, which is something government bodies must wrestle with in earnest.” The photograph above appeared in the newspaper with this article, and included a caption reading: “The thin haze seen most winter mornings over Aspen is indicative of temperature inversion, common in mountain valleys like the Roaring Fork. The air stagnates and holds pollutants down where people can breathe them. When you consider, as do local health officers, that three-quarters of all air pollution is invisible, the brown cloud over Aspen suddenly takes on serious proportions.”

This photo and more can be found in the Aspen Historical Society archives at

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