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Expert optimistic that air quality will soon improve

By Ashtyn Asay - Daily Herald | Jan 21, 2022

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Inversion clouds move across the mountains overlooking Provo on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.

Utah Valley is filled with smog, but a local expert is hopeful that upcoming snowstorms could be the key to cleaner air.

Air quality in Utah County has ranged from Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups this week, but according to Bo Call, manager of the air monitoring section for the Division of Air Quality, upcoming snow showers should help to clear up the pollution and keep the air clear until the inversion cycle starts anew.

“We’re gonna have a storm that’s gonna come through today and tomorrow that front’s gonna come through, clean everything out, we’ll be clean for a couple of days,” Call said. “The inversion will set up, but it won’t have that long of a time before the next storm comes through on Monday or so.”

Call also had a word of encouragement for Utah County residents.

“Their air is better than what they see in Salt Lake County… there’s always a silver lining,” Call said.

According to IQAir, Salt Lake City had the worst air in the country on Tuesday. By Thursday, SLC had the second-worst air in the country, behind Denver, and ranked 32 in the world for worst air quality.

While the air is considered Moderate or Unsafe for Sensitive Groups, Dr. Denitza Blagev, a pulmonary physician at Intermountain Healthcare, recommended that those who could be at risk, including those with long COVID or underlying diseases, take extra precautions.

“The risk with the bad air quality is that they at increased risk of cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, or even flares of nonspecific symptoms because of the air quality,” Blagev said. “The reason it’s not always only shortness of breath and wheezing is because these tiny, tiny particles are really the perfect size to get into the airways and cross into the bloodstream, and once they’re in the bloodstream they set off both inflammation and clotting.”

These clots from air pollution can cause a number of issues including heart attack, stroke and autoimmune disease flareups.

“In that orange level is where it’s bad enough that if you’re someone that’s in a sensitive group it’s worth kind of altering what you do,” Blagev said. Those are not the days to go out on your outside hike or jog. If you have the option to go up in altitude that helps, if you have the option to exercise indoors in a safe way, not picking up other viruses, that’s also good.”

Blagev also recommended that those in sensitive groups focus on maintaining their health by regularly taking prescribed medications. Additionally, she mentioned that N95 masks trap air particulates, making them a great choice for added protection during times of bad air quality.

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