Pollution, hot temperatures create perfect conditions for ozone, DEQ says

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SALT LAKE CITY -- It may look like a beautiful day across northern Utah but in the Salt Lake Valley looks are a little deceiving. Air quality is bad, and no, we're not talking about an inversion.

The Department of Air Quality says their biggest concern during the hot summer months is ozone.

“What we're seeing is the perfect conditions for ozone in the summertime when we have days like today with calm winds temperatures near 90 degrees and clear blue skies,” said Bryce Bird Air Quality Director for the Department of Environmental Quality.

Experts say its basic science. Sun and heat combine with pollution created from doing everyday things like driving cars mix together to form ground level ozone.

“Here at ground level it's a very strong oxidant and so when we breathe it in it interacts with the soft linings of the lungs the tissues inside our bodies and causes damages to those similar to a sun burn,” Bird said.

Twenty-four air monitoring stations across the state measure air pollution in the winter its particulate matter and in the summer, ozone. Monday and Tuesday’s ozone levels exceeded federal health standards while the DEQ says that's common in urban areas. But one section of the Salt Lake Valley is seeing a dramatic spike of ozone pollutants.

“Some of the areas along the Great Salt Lake showed higher levels of ozone that we see in the urban areas where the pollution is,” Bird said.

A study beginning in 2010 shows throughout the past several years the ozone levels around the Great Salt Lake are rising.  But why experts aren't sure the study will continue this summer to find answers.

“What's causing the ozone to form where it's forming and what we can do to reduce emissions in the further to reduce those,” Bird said.

But regardless of the answer experts want all of us to focus on how to help clear the air. They say the key is to reduce how often you drive your car.

More information onzone can be found at http://air.utah.gov/