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:
For more suggestions, see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Ways to Reduce Air Pollution.
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.
Ground-level Ozone: Number of Days by Year by County
Ground-level Ozone: Person-time Days by County
PM 2.5: Percent of Days by Year
PM 2.5: Person-time Days by Year
Air Quality Conditions