Smog poses health concerns for Salt Lake City; doctor advises change

Dec 18, 2023, 6:23 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2023, 1:05 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A fog looming over Salt Lake City caused some confusion through the weekend and into Monday by concealing a bigger problem: pollution.

During certain parts of the day Monday, Salt Lake hit national charts for the worst air quality index in the U.S. and remained in the top 10 throughout. The haze in the air was confirmed by KSL meteorologist Matt Johnson to be a mixture of both fog and smog.

“The fog is just a ton of water — water vapor that’s been trapped in the atmosphere and has now supersaturated the atmosphere,” Johnson said.

Dr. Denitza Blagev, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Intermountain Health, told KSL TV that this inversion is bad for anybody, whether they’re in the “sensitive groups” category or not.

“Even if you’re not one of the people that can walk out and have wheezing or coughing or shortness of breath breathing, that air is still bad for you,” she said.

Blagev said that pollution particles affect more than just the lungs, adding to the risk of stroke, autoimmune diseases, or even heart attack.

“They get into the bloodstream and then they can cascade inflammation, clotting throughout the body,” she said. “There’s no safe level of air pollution.”

Johnson said Utah’s next real chance to push out the inversion with a storm is Saturday, meaning the air quality index is likely to continue to worsen until then. Blagev advised the community to exercise inside, because “we know in general that air quality inside is better than air quality outside.”

Another way to mitigate the problem is driving as little as possible, and if driving is required, idling at a minimum.

“I think one of the key things with that air pollution is to realize when the pollution is bad enough,” Blagev said. “You should really change your behavior.”

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Smog poses health concerns for Salt Lake City; doctor advises change