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My bad air day: Utah doc: More illness, depression in inversions
Health » Family physician wonders how living in the Salt Lake Valley impacts his patients’ health.

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Sean Landis, Draper

I suffer from mild asthma and some allergies. Most of the year they are under control but I can tell whenever we are under yellow alert. I begin to breathe with an irritating wheeze, and I notice my allergies will flare up. Sometimes I must use an inhaler before bed so that I am not kept awake from the tightness in my chest.

At a glance

About this series

This is part of an occasional series of stories examining Utah’s air quality through the monitoring station collecting data at Hawthorne Elementary School, at 1675 South 600 East 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 a previous story about that monitoring here.

Share the story of your bad air day

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.

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The other thing my body notices is the burning in my eyes. I use a computer all day and when the air quality is poor, my eyes burn and become weepy by the time I drive home.

The psychological affects are present, too. I find a few consecutive days of gloom to be depressing. My energy level drops, and my will to tackle challenges goes down.

‘We’re in a crisis situation’

Christie Babalis, Park City

Most people in the Salt Lake Valley will feel some negative effects from Utah’s bad air. I now live in Park City (after 35 years in Salt Lake) so I am not as impacted as some, but my children spend two days a week in Salt Lake. They go there to spend time with their grandparents, their aunt, uncle and cousin. They are 2 and 5 years old.

Lately, we don’t visit Salt Lake as much. The kids love to play outside and it just isn’t appealing to do that in Salt Lake on many days. They see their relatives a lot less than they used to and that makes them sad. It’s hard for my parents to drive to Park City and I’m not willing to take the kids to Salt Lake where they can’t play outside without unhealthy consequences. I also don’t like contributing to the smog by driving down there twice a week.

I used to consider Salt Lake one of the most beautiful cities because of the rim of mountains surrounding it. Now, all I see is the pollution, sprawl and strip malls. It’s too bad the planners didn’t have enough foresight to encourage the design and development of walkable communities. I don’t really like Salt Lake anymore and I have friends who used to visit each year to ski who don’t want to come here anymore because of how "dirty" it is.

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I miss the Salt Lake I used to know. I remember walking everywhere as a kid and playing in Sugar House and Liberty parks. My kids will never have a bond to Salt Lake nor will they ever see it as the beautiful city it once was. I know people say that the air is cleaner now but I don’t know if I agree. It sure looks a lot dirtier and there are definitely a lot more cars everywhere you go. It used to be that kids would go to the school that was closest to their house and they walked there. Now, you pick and choose which school you go to, even if it means driving 25 miles each way to get there. We just haven’t planned very well to limit our reliance on cars.

Every time I go to the bank drive-up, I turn off my car. I never keep my car running if I know it is going to be more than about a 20- to 30-second wait. When I see people idling, I politely ask them to consider turning off their cars while they wait. I usually get yelled at, sworn at or told to mind my own business. We all know the air is a problem but people are too afraid of taking away or losing their freedoms to do the things that will really help. Well guess what, it’s not that much different than telling people they can’t smoke in a restaurant. We’re in a crisis situation with our air and our quality of life. It’s time for drastic measures – by everyone. A little inconvenience won’t kill us, but doing nothing will. Pass laws, give tickets, inconvenience us – do whatever needs to be done if it means we can have clean air to breathe and a beautiful place to live again.

Anything less than measures that force a cultural shift away from our reliance on cars is not enough. I wish we had some leaders who could prioritize health and quality of life issues over weird phobias about who someone they have never met chooses to marry.

"My mom and sister missed my wedding’

Kathleen Murphy, Salt Lake City

My bad air day was my wedding day, Jan. 22, 2005. Due to a thick, lingering inversion that prevented all but the biggest jumbo jets to land at Salt Lake’s airport, my mom and sister missed my wedding.

My out-of-town guests who did manage to make it to Utah were astonished to discover not the pristine mountain setting they had eagerly anticipated but a dreary gray landscape blanketed with smelly air.

‘I love the euphemism’

Rita Marie Kelly, Millcreek

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Air-quality town hall Wednesday

The 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. on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 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.

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

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