Particulate Pollution Increases Due To Regional Wildfires

Jul 30, 2018, 7:20 PM | Updated: 10:49 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Smoke from wildfires to the west of the Wasatch Front has been wafting over the state and polluting the air we breathe, according to state air quality officials.

State air quality sensors and the KSL Air Quality Network showed elevated levels of particulate pollution in the moderately unhealthy range Monday.

The president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment urged everyone on the Wasatch Front to avoid exposure as much as possible to outside air.

“The smoke goes where the wind blows it,” said Bo Call, Manager of Air Monitoring for the Utah Division of Air Quality.

The wind has blown smoke pollution from across Utah. There’s been an orange tint to the air the last few days as pollution from western wildfires drifts through Utah.

KSL visited with Call at the air monitoring station in Rose Park. We were able to see discoloration in the 24-hour filter recently removed from the monitor.

“We’ve kind of been lucky, so far, that we haven’t been really pounded by them a lot more,” said Call, referring to the number of California fires burning this summer.

The Goose Creek Fire expanding on the Nevada-Utah border was pumping smoke over Utah, as were several fires in California and Oregon.

“You can just look at the satellite projections,” said Call. “It just shows the smoke coming right over the mountains and just dropping it right on top of us.”

It’s easier to escape Utah’s particulate pollution in the winter, because it typically pools in the valleys. Unfortunately, the summer wildfire smoke even affects our mountain towns and valleys, which have showed elevated pollution levels the last week of July.

“Air pollution at any level is really harmful to human health. Period,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

Resident should all be cautious about breathing outside air this week, he said, not just those who are especially sensitive to pollution.

“It’s unhealthy for everybody,” said Dr. Moench. “It harms everyone’s health, even if they’re not symptomatic from it.”

Dr. Moench recommended exercise early in the morning or at night, after the ozone pollution has peaked, if we must exercise outdoors.

Much of the smoke is in the upper atmosphere, he said, making the pollution look worse, but people should be realistic about the dangers from breathing any smoky air.

“It actually looks worse than it is,” said Dr. Moench. “But, I need to temper that by telling you that the medical research says that even modest levels of air pollution are still doing significant harm.”

To get through episodes like these, Dr. Moench said air purifiers placed in your bedroom can make a difference in the air you breathe. They cost anywhere from $100 to $1000, and up.

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Particulate Pollution Increases Due To Regional Wildfires