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UTAH'S AIR QUALITY

Cache County inversions capture high levels of ammonia pollution

Dec 19, 2023, 6:50 PM | Updated: Dec 20, 2023, 5:56 am

LOGAN — Cache County often captures some of the worst air in the country. That’s due to it being surrounded closely by mountains on all sides.

However, it turns out the type of pollution that is getting trapped there is also unique.

According to Dr. Randal Martin, an associate research professor at Utah State University, the big bowl of the Cache Valley also often gets covered with high levels of ammonia-based air pollution, which is something that is often referred to as “cars and cows.”

“And actually that’s really from a lot of the agricultural production that’s here,” Martin said. “We have cows, chickens, horses, fertilizer on the ground, all of that produces ammonia.”

And while Martin says the area doesn’t have the most agriculture production in the country, the valley keeps and concentrates that pollution there in a way that isn’t seen anywhere else.

“We literally have the highest atmospheric ammonia concentration of anywhere in the country,” he said. “We call ourselves the ammonia volcano because if you look at it in 3D, we have this big peak of ammonia in it right here over Cache Valley.”

Cache County often captures some of the worst air in the country. That’s due to it being surrounded closely by mountains on all sides. (KSL TV)

On the other hand…

On the flip side, Martin points out that according to a recent study, ammonia-based pollution doesn’t do the same kind of damage that the more industrial type seen in the Salt Lake Valley is known for.

“(It’s) more of an irritant and an interference,” Martin said. “It’s just like, say the least toxic of a lot of things that particles are made up of. So but it’s still like it’s still a particle. It’s still getting down into your lung, still interfering with your oxygen exchange.”

Martin added there is no level of safe air pollution. Even on days when the winter inversion may not be as bad as it could be, he said we should all take precautions to reduce our own carbon footprint and minimize time outside, breathing the polluted air.

“Every year there’s just more and more studies that show the depth and the magnitude and the breadth of air pollution effects on ourselves, our bodies, (and) our psychology,” Martin said. “There is no doubt anymore that air pollution and the levels that we see here in northern Utah are harmful.”

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Cache County inversions capture high levels of ammonia pollution