The American Lung Association gave all five Wasatch Front counties a grade of "F" for air quality in its annual State of the Air report issued today.
Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties flunked on the association's three-year average for high-ozone days.
On the measure of fine particulate matter, Box Elder did slightly better, getting a grade of "D," but the rest flunked that one as well.
Both particulate matter and ozone pollution cause a wide range of health problems, including increased rates of asthma, heart attack and other breathing problems. The young and elderly are particularly vulnerable, but everyone suffers.
Compared to the rest of the nation, the Salt Lake-Ogden-Clearfield metropolitan area ranked fifth for worst short-term particulate matter pollution, one step below Los Angeles.
Provo-Orem ranked sixth for the same thing. Logan ranked ninth.
Donna Kemp Spangler, spokeswoman for the Utah Division of Air Quality, was quick to attack the report as politically motivated. She said its numbers are skewed to make Utah look worse than it is.
Utah scores poorly because of seasonal spikes of bad air during winter inversions, she said, while communities in other areas of the country have poor air year-round.
She said the ALA also ignores Utah's six years of work drawing up plans to clean its air.
"The American Lung Association has an agenda. They are trying to get the EPA to toughen the standards on ozone and fine particulate matter," she said.
"They are driven politically, so their report is primarily to get the EPA to tighten their standards."
She said Utah knows it has an air-quality problem.
"It's not a secret we don't meet federal standards at times. We're in the process of writing a state air-quality plan, and it looks at various ways we're going to meet the federal standards. We've been doing that for six years, and in the meantime, we've been trying to work with the stakeholders."
She said she was at a meeting with those stakeholders -- county officials and businesses -- on Tuesday when the Standard-Examiner called to ask about the release of the report, which was embargoed for release until today.
"Every year, the ALA doesn't tell us anything we don't already know," she said. "It's (the report) not a really accurate look at how you see things."
However, Dr. Brian Moench, head of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said Utah needs to take the report seriously.
Claiming that Utah's bad ranking is just because of short-term spikes "contradicts the medical data. Those spikes are bad, and they have lingering effects that go on for weeks, if not months. The DAQ needs to accept the information as a call to arms. The DAQ does not serve the public health by trying to manipulate the circumstance so it sounds better than it is."
He said the American Lung Association isn't playing politics.
"The ALA is a well-respected association, one of the most well-respected in the country. Their mission is to protect health, and if they say we've got a serious problem, their credibility is unmatched."