Bad air caused by ‘cocktail’ of pollutants

SALT LAKE CITY — Hazy air has clouded the Salt Lake Valley for days, and researchers say it means we're breathing in a concoction of pollutants.

They say the air quality is expected to get even worse this weekend.

Air quality levels have teetered between moderate and unhealthy for sensitive groups for the past few days. The Wasatch Mountains look murky under the layer of haze.

Parents like Melissa Baxter have been limiting their children's playtime outdoors. One of Baxter's sons has asthma.

"It has been a little harder for him to catch up on his breath, he'll have a dry cough," she said.

Daniel Mendoza, research assistant professor for the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah, described two main reasons creating a "cocktail of pollutants" in the air that could potentially cause health problems.

"Generally during the summer, we do have... elevated ozone issues," Mendoza said.

He indicated that the ozone levels spike between April and September, but the worst levels peak from June to August.

Second, smoke keeps drifting in from wildfires around the region, and he said it's causing "elevated particulate matter-- the PM 2.5 that we're used to having during the winter time inversions."

Unlike the winter inversions, Mendoza said heading into the mountains doesn't help bring relief.

"We're not actually pressing down the pollution downwards, we actually have it more evenly distributed," he said. "So, there's no real good way to escape the particulate matter."

He suggested people limit their outdoor activities to the morning and evening, and avoid strenuous activity between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Mendoza said that's when the ozone levels are at their worst for the day.

Baxter said she's been coming up with indoor activities for her kids, like taking a trip to the museum.

"We take a day out, and play hard, and then we stay inside the next day," she said, adding, "You kind of just have to have a good balance."