Question by Tim Komlos in Salt Lake City, Utah.

How soon the lake will become a biohazardous site depends on the varying aspects of what is happening as the lake shrinks.

The lake could become hazardous soon for the wildlife who rely on it, according to Dr. Kevin Perry, a local atmospheric scientist. 

“Unfortunately, we are very close to a tipping point to which the wildlife will not be able to use the lake in the way they’ve become accustomed,” Perry said. 

This is because of the salt concentration in the southern half of the lake. The brine shrimp won’t reproduce effectively if the lake gets much saltier, according to Perry. 

The lake won’t become hazardous for humans as quickly as it will for the animals. However, without action, the lake will be hazardous to human life in the area.

Perry said dust from the exposed lake bed could cause health problems, like cancer or cardiovascular disease, if it is inhaled over a long period of time. 

“Right now, most of the lake bed is covered by a crust… only 9% of the lake is currently an active dust source,” said Perry. 

The research Perry is doing now shows that the longer the lake bed is exposed to the air, the more likely the crust will break up. He said this will increase the severity of the dust events currently happening because of the lake.

—Written and reported by McCaulee Blackburn