How does Utah’s air quality compare to other states?

Feb 2, 2023, 5:10 PM | Updated: 5:52 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Air quality seems to be top of mind for most Utahns. But how does it compare to other states?

Dr. Denizta Blagev is a pulmonary and critical care doctor at Intermountain Health who researches air quality. She said on average, Salt Lake City is not bad compared to other cities its size.

“But when the air quality is bad in the summer, with the wildfire smoke and inversion, we could be the worst in the nation,” she said.

Typically, Blagev said the air quality indoors is better, but she said there are ways to improve it even more: by changing your furnace filter or by getting a stand-alone air filter.

“Air quality is important to all of us. Whether it’s sensitive groups or not, it will affect us both in the short term and the long term,” she said.

Some of the effects of bad air quality in the short term, Blagev said, is chest tightness, shortness of breath, and increased risk of getting infections. In the long term, she said it can lead to premature death, lung and heart disease, and higher risk of developing lung cancer.

“It doesn’t get more basic than clean air and clean water. For our all of our health, it’s really critical that our air is healthy,” Blagey said.

Juniper Anderson, 9, loves to play outside, but said it can get tough with the air quality.

“When the air quality is bad, I start to cough, and it feels like my lungs are caving in,” she said.

Her mom, Kate Anderson, said that Juniper developed asthma six years ago, just a few months after moving to Salt Lake City.

“Within a couple months, she kept getting this cough that wouldn’t go away,” Kate said.

Kate said she believes Juniper developed asthma from Salt Lake City’s air quality.

“I was enraged as a mom. I didn’t know that something could be so quickly evasive,” she said.

Juniper and her mom wish something would be done about the poor air quality in Salt Lake City.

“I feel bad for my daughter because when the air quality is bad, she can barely catch her breath at night,” she said.

Blagev said in the long term, to help improve Utah’s air quality, she recommends people cut back on their emissions — whether that be driving emissions, household or commercial emissions.

There are little things we can all do to help improve the air. You’ll find some ideas on UCAIR’s website, along with links to the current air quality index so you know how to plan your activities and when to stay indoors.

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How does Utah’s air quality compare to other states?