Little relief in sight as Wasatch Front air quality worsens

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Department of Environmental Quality says we’re at the tip-top of the moderate air level right now, meaning it could be worse. However, it's likely to get worse soon.

You could call it a classic cool pool inversion, according to the DEQ Air Quality Director, Bryce Bird.

“With snow on the ground in the winter time, when a storm leaves the air is trapped in the valley and then the emissions we produce from our vehicles, from our homes and buildings, from industrial sources, is really stuck here with us until the next storm comes and cleans us out,” says Bird.

The DEQ's most recent forecast shows orange air quality and mandatory action in Salt Lake and Cache counties Thursday through Saturday.

Box Elder, Carbon, Tooele, Utah and Weber counties show yellow air quality and voluntary action through that same time frame.

Orange air quality is considered "unhealthy for sensitive groups" while yellow air quality is considered "moderate".

Unfortunately, there isn't much relief on the horizon.

“There is a weak storm coming through that may give us some relief but then it will build back up over the next few days,” says Bird.

If you're one of those people with heart or lung problems, this is not the day to skip your medication, according to Intermountain Healthcare Pulmonologist, Dr. Danitza Blagev.

“Making sure you’re taking your regular medications especially on these days gives you that much more reserve to deal with the air pollution,” says Blagev.

There are other sensitive groups like the young and the elderly who should be staying indoors on days like this, but bad air quality affects all of us.

“Even if you feel perfectly fine, if it`s a red air day you should not be out jogging in the air pollution. That`s still not good for you,” says Blagev.

When we talk about things we can do, it starts to sound like a broken record. Don't idle your car, try to use public transportation, and avoid exercising outside, but there are some less obvious tips like using your newer cars if you must drive.

“We know that cars have become cleaner over time as federal standards have come into place and so if you can drive a newer car that would reduce the level of pollution,” says Bird.

You should also avoid wood burning if possible and try not to use paint or solvents right now.

“If we can avoid adding to air pollution, these things add a little bit and when we have a million or a million and a half people adding of course that builds up quickly,” Bird said.

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