Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
How does Utah’s bad air hurt our health?
Air quality » Research shows pollution can aggravate existing health conditions, but studies now probe whether exposure can cause disease directly.

< Previous Page

But fine particles and ultra-fine particles, less than 100 nanometers in diameter, are now thought to actually penetrate lung tissue and reach circulating cells and the brain. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter).

There remains considerable debate about how this happens and what it means.

At a glance

About this series

This is the second in an occasional series of stories examining Utah’s air quality through the monitoring station collecting data at Hawthorne Elementary School, 1675 S. 600 East in Salt Lake City, and the surrounding community.

The air at Hawthorne Elementary is much the same as the rest of Utah’s urban valleys — but the school is the focus of some of the most crucial air monitoring research in the state. Read our previous story here.

Air quality town hall

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Jennifer Napier-Pearce will moderate a town-hall discussion on Utah’s air quality challenges with a panel of experts at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South. The discussion will be broadcast live on KCPW 88.3/105.3 FM and at sltrib.com. You can submit questions in advance by sending an email to utairquality@sltrib.com.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

But researchers have discovered soot in the brains of dogs and children in polluted Mexico City and documented damage to their prefrontal cortex.

Pollution is now being implicated in neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke. It may even hamper the development of babies’ brains in utero.

"It needs further study, but I believe the risk to kids’ cognition and development is real," said Jennifer Majersik, a neurologist at the U. and the mother of two boys at Hawthorne.

How applicable to Utah is the existing research — such as the studies based on ozone and traffic-related pollution in California or Mexico? That’s an open question.

Balancing the risks » The shifting, sometimes conflicting, information on pollution can be paralyzing. Saralinda Bell monitors the air quality daily but knows parents who don’t.

"This is all kind of new to us," she said one afternoon last week while checking Soren out of school for a fun timeout from indoor recess.

It’s not often that all students are kept inside during recess. In 2007, a year on par with the record-high pollution spikes in 2013, there were four days when particulates rose above the triggering threshold of 90 micrograms per cubic meter of air, according to the Utah Department of Health. But there are plenty of days that rise above safe levels for "sensitive" kids such as Soren.

story continues below
story continues below

Kids, too, are keenly aware of the health threats.

A group at Hawthorne has spent part of the year learning about pollution and its health toll, which is a good thing, said Majersik.

It’s the younger generation that will internalize conservation messages and drive change, she said. "Today it’s shocking to see someone over-watering their lawn or throwing trash from a car. But if you ask my mom, who grew up in the ’50s, she’ll say, ‘Nobody thought about stuff like that back then.’ "

She appreciates air quality alerts so she and her family can take steps to protect their health, but says she tends not to be a worrier.

Hofmann, the pediatrician, advises patients to take heed of alerts but not let them rule their lives.

Her son has asthma and if he is needing to use his rescue inhaler, she may send a note to school asking educators to keep him inside, even on lower-pollution days. But if his asthma is well-controlled, she’ll let him go outside for recess despite the air quality because, she said, "I want him to have a normal childhood. We must balance all sorts of risks every day."


Twitter: @KStewart4Trib

Share the story of your bad-air day

For some Utahns, inversion season is simply annoying. It means fewer outdoor exercise days, eye and throat irritation and a less-than-picturesque view. For others, though, the cloud of pollution that clings to the valley floor is a serious threat that exacerbates existing health problems and makes Salt Lake City virtually unlivable in the winter months.

» How does poor air quality affect you? The Salt Lake Tribune and KUED Channel 7 want to hear your bad-air-day stories — whether written or video-recorded. Send stories to utairquality@sltrib.com with “My Bad Air Day” in the subject line or share them at facebook.com/saltlaketribune.

» Share video stories on Tout at tout.com/sltrib or at #mybadairday on Instagram. The Tribune and KUED will share your stories as part of our ongoing air-quality coverage.

Poor air in America

The American Lung Association estimates that 127 million Americans, or 47 percent of the nation, live with pollution levels that at times are too dangerous to breathe.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.