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Air Quality

To see current air quality conditions in Utah, visit the Utah Air Quality Index.
Air pollution refers to any biological, physical, or chemical particle that is in the air that should not be there. Pollutants come from many human activities such as factories, power plants, dry cleaners, cars, trains, airplanes, and buses. They can also come from environmental sources like volcanic eruptions and windblown dust. Air quality measures how much pollution is in the air.
On average, adults breathe over 3,000 gallons of air each day; there is no way to avoid breathing. If that air is contaminated, there is no way to avoid exposure to those pollutants. Furthermore, it damages trees, crops, plants, animals, rivers, and lakes. This damages ecoystems and alters natural processes. It can also damage buildings and statues. Because air is ubiquitous, poor air quality affects everything around us.
Air pollution affects health in a number of ways. They range from coughing and shortness of breath to exacerbating conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. Air pollution has also been linked to higher occurrence of heart attacks and strokes and low birth weight in infants. Two air pollutants of particular concern are ozone and PM2.5.

Ozone: Ground-level ozone, not to be confused with the atmosphere's protective ozone layer, is created by reactions between environmental pollutants and light and heat. Ozone is the main component of smog and is dangerous to health and the environment. The creation of ozone is facilitated by warm weather and sunshine; therefore, ozone levels are usually higher in the summer and in the mid-afternoon.

PM2.5: "PM" stands for "particulate matter," which is a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. PM has many different components like acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil. PM is measured in micrometers, so PM10 refers to particulate matter that is 10 micrometers long and PM2.5, 2.5 micrometers long. The important thing with PM is its size. The size of the particle is directly linked with their ability to harm human health; the smaller the particle, the easier it can pass through the nose and throat and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, PM can affect the heart and lungs, causing serious health consequences.

These and four other pollutants are categorized as the six "criteria pollutants" by the US Environmental Protection Agency. To learn more, click the following links:
Air pollution affects everyone, but certain people are more susceptible to its effects. Sensitive populations include people with lung or heart issues, young children, and older adults.
Even though we may assume that our individual choices do not affect air quality, they do. Reducing air pollution and improving air quality is everybody's responsibility:

  • Conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances when you're not using them
  • Recycle paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminium cans
  • Shop with a canvas bag and avoid using paper and plastic bags
  • Plan your trips with your automobile
  • Instead of using your car, use public transportation, ride a bike, or walk


For more suggestions, please visit these websites for more ideas:

Air Quality Conditions


Resources

  • Air Pollution - Utah Environmental Epidemiology Program - Web page resource on air quality in Utah.
  • Air Pollution and Public Health in Utah (PDF) - Utah Environmental Epidemiology Program - This publication provides information about common air pollutants and the ways they affect human health.
  • EJSCREEN Tool - EJSCREEN is a mapping tool provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It combines environmental and demographic information about environmental justice topics. Relevant to air quality, EJSCREEN provides 6 air quality data topics:
      • Lifetime cancer risk from inhalation of air toxics
      • Air toxics respiratory hazard index (ratio of exposure concentration to health-based reference concentration)
      • Diesel particulate matter level in air
      • PM2.5 levels in air
      • Ozone summer seasonal average
      • Count of vehicles at major roads within 500 meters
  • EnviroAtlas home page - EnviroAtlas is a tool provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EnviroAtlas provides interactive resources for exploring the benefits people receive from nature, or "ecosystem goods and services." It uses seven broad categories to organize its information and data: clean air; clean and plentiful water; natural hazard mitigation; climate stabilization; recreation, culture, and aesthetics; food, fuel, and materials; and biodiversity conservation.
  • Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST) - C-FERST is a tool provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that helps communities learn about environmental issues and risks. Topics include air quality, air toxics assessment, air pollutant emissions inventory, water discharge sites, water quality inventory report, NPL (Superfund) sites, and more. It also includes data on demographics, schools, and political boundaries.
  • The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Program Websites

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The two air pollutants that the Utah EPHT Network tracks are ground-level ozone and PM2.5. The Utah EPHT Network receives air quality data from the Air Quality Division of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

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The links listed below redirect you to health assessments that have been conducted in Utah that are relevant to air quality. The Utah APPLETREE program at the Utah Department of Health is responsible for evaluating and responding to environmental public health issues in Utah. For more information, please visit the Utah APPLETREE website.

The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site (http://epht.health.utah.gov). The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Fri, 09 December 2016 19:55:18 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: http://epht.health.utah.gov ".

Content updated: Mon, 14 Nov 2016 15:40:36 MST