Northern Utah under weeklong air pollution alert

Monday , January 07, 2013 - 3:09 PM

Paul Foy

SALT LAKE CITY — Northern Utah had the country’s dirtiest air Monday, as tailpipe and other emissions choked a five-county region and doctors warned people — especially pregnant women and children — to stay indoors.

The pollution exceeded federal air-quality standards along an urban corridor known as the Wasatch Front that is home to 2 million Utah residents.

Utah County led the region’s pollution charts with 88 micrograms of damaging soot particles for every cubic meter of air, more than twice the federal limit of 35 micrograms.

Salt Lake County was approaching 60 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particles — the kind that lodge deep in the lungs.

The pollution hotspot was easy to see at http://airnow.gov , a website maintained by federal agencies.

State authorities couldn’t do much to ease conditions except to ban wood burning in fireplaces. They urged people to limit driving as northern Utah entered the second week of its pollution alert.

“There is no better time for all of us to be considering alternatives to driving than in the midst of a winter inversion,” Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker said in a statement Monday. “Each of our individual efforts can, and does, make a positive impact on our air quality.”

Vehicle emissions account for half of Utah’s urban pollution. State regulators are working on a set of plans to limit everyday emissions, including a measure to ban the sale of aerosol deodorants and hair spray that contain hydrocarbon propellants. Those plans, however, will take years to show results.

Doctors advised people to avoid any kind of outdoor exercise that requires taking big gulps of air.

“You’re bringing more junk into your lungs,” said Dr. Richard E. Kanner, a pulmonologist and former chairman of the Utah Air Quality Board. “If you stay indoors, you should get a lot less pollution, depending on how tight your house is.”

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