Storms help with air pollution, but some parts of Utah still hazy

SALT LAKE CITY — It's been a tough summer in terms of air quality and it's even tougher to understand what it takes to clear out the haze.

In the Salt Lake Valley, it's significantly clearer Friday, but up in Cache and Box Elder counties, it's a smoky mess. In fact, USU had to cancel one of their soccer matches Friday evening because of the air quality.

On Thursday in the Salt Lake Valley, the smoke was so thick, you couldn't see the Wasatch Mountains, and this was a day after some significant storms.

Since then, however, there hasn't been any significant precipitation. We asked Air Quality Director with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Bryce Bird, to explain the reason for the shift.

“They cleared it out temporarily, but as soon as the front passed, it opened up the window for the smoke that was behind that storm front to come into the area,” Bird said.

On Friday, wind helped clear that smoke northward out of the Salt Lake Valley.

“Up in Brigham city, in the Cache Valley and north up into Idaho that`s where the smoke that we saw yesterday has just moved a little bit north, so they`re seeing those impacts up there,” Bird said.

In other words, a simple storm isn't the solution. It must be the perfect storm.

“It really just depends on where the air is circulating, which smoke is coming into our area, and then how concentrated that smoke is in our area,” Bird said.

According to University of Utah Pulmonologist, Dr. Denitza Blagev, the bad air pollution is affecting all Utahns, whether we feel it or not.

“Even if you don`t have any symptoms today having this kind of exposure really puts you at increased risk in the future,” Blagev said.

Bad air quality doesn't just impact sensitive groups like the elderly or people with asthma.

“There are studies showing that people that live in an area of higher air pollution have a higher risk of dying than people that live in an area of lower air pollution,” Blagev said.

That seems like a gloomy outlook for all of us living here in Utah.

“There`s risks associated with everything we do. We take on those risks when we understand what they are. For instance, driving is very risky in comparison. Our diets are risky in comparison,” Bird said.

Something we can do to mitigate that risk is avoid heavy exertion on bad air days.

“We bring in much more air into our bodies. We bring those smoke particles and air pollutants with it and that`s of course when we see the additional harm that can come from that,” says Bird.

Some other tips to improve air quality as a community are carpooling or taking public transportation.

You should also monitor the levels before you head outside by visiting www.airquality.utah.gov to make sure it's safe enough to spend any significant time outdoors.