Utah Air Pollution: A Public Health Emergency

Winter pollution is becoming a blight to the beehive state. Utah’s dirty air threatens the incredible recreation and tourism that Utah is known for, as well as the health of its relatively young, healthy population. According to a story on KSL.com Utah’s Wasatch Front ranks as one of the worst parts of the country for short-term particle pollution but not as high for year-round.

According to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report, many Utah cities are among the worst in the nation. Salt Lake City/Ogden/Clearfield are ranked number six on the short-term list. Logan is ranked 10th and Provo 11th. “The report gave six counties in Utah an “F grade” for unacceptable high particulate pollution days; Salt Lake City had the most unacceptable days.”

The EPA measures pollutants including: ozone, particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. They rate these on a scale of 0-500. A “red” warning level, is anything about 151, but even with an orange alert (101-150) it can start hurting sensitive groups such as the elderly, infants, and those with respiratory problems.

air quality codes, EPA

However, you don’t have to be in those groups to be affected. Air pollution shortens the life of everyone along the Wasatch Front by 2 years. Though Utah’s smoking rate is one of the lowest in the country, every red day is akin to smoking a half a pack of cigarettes.

Part of the problem is caused by geography and the inversions it creates, there’s not a lot we can do to change that. Instead it has to be lowering emissions and addressing industry polluters. The problems air pollution causes and what we can begin to do about it is illustrated below. The message is clear: Utah’s air is not only dirty, it’s often unhealthy.

We gathered all the research we could find about Utah’s air pollution problem for this infographic.


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