Air pollution in Salt Lake City is heavier on the west side than the east. Health experts offered tips to protect yourself.


(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Miguel Lagunas sees how a pollution detector works that was made from Legos and a few electronics, at the Breathe Clean Festival, Saturday, November 18, 2017. The event is designed to inform the public about short and long-term solutions to improve our environment and individual, family and public health.

Winter is coming and so is the valley inversion season, but you don’t have to feel helpless.

There are things you can do to fight air pollution: don’t idle your car needlessly, seal you house or business to increase energy efficiency and don’t exercise outdoors on bad-air days.

Those are just a sampling of many ideas that where offered Saturday at the Breathe Clean Festival at Salt Lake City’s Glendale Public Library.

It was the first of a series of events aimed at educating and empowering Salt Lake City and its west-side communities on reducing health risks and emissions, said state Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.

Daniel Mendoza analyzes air pollution across the Salt Lake Valley at the University of Utah Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Like many cities, pollution levels are highest where incomes are lowest, he explained. That means people living on the west side are impacted more than east-siders.

For example, Mendoza said carbon dioxide levels are twice as great in Rose Park as they are at the University of Utah. That’s because Rose Park is close to pollution sources, such as freeways and an industrial area to its north.

Noah Miterko was passing out information at a booth for HEAL Utah, a nonprofit organization that promotes clean air and renewable energy.

We want to connect more people to their lawmakers,” he said. “People need to galvanize the pollution issue to get things done.”

Educating people on ways to mitigate the impacts of air pollution is essential to good health, said Liz Joy, a physician with Intermountain Healthcare. She and her colleagues have developed easy-to-follow diagrams with such titles as “Air Quality and Outdoor Exercise or Work” and “Outdoor Air Quality and Heart Disease.”

Ongoing exposure to air pollution can lead to heart disease and stroke, Joy explained. And those suffering from heart disease or high blood pressure are more at risk during valley inversions.

About 230,000 Utans suffer from asthma and some 500,000 have cardiovascular disease, according to Intermountain Healthcare.

Suggestions include: plan outdoor activities in the morning, when air quality is usually better and don’t exercise near automobile traffic. Other strategies and facts can be found at ucair.org.

Air pollution also has a great impact on pregnant women and fetuses, said Denni Cawley of Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment. It can affect birth weight as well as brain development in a fetus.

Cawley noted there is no safe level of air pollution and that even short-term exposure to particulate matter and ozone can be harmful.

Making sure your house or business is well sealed saves money, and it also cuts air pollution, said Emma Rieves from Utah Clean Energy. About one-third of air pollution is caused by houses and other buildings, she said.

Beyond that, a well-sealed building provides cleaner air inside, she explained.

Mohit Tayal and his family from Taylorsville visited the fair and found it enlightening, he said, because there was a lot information, includng actions residents can take.

This is really good,” he said. “I was not expecting this.”

The Breath Clean Festival was sponsored by Salt Lake City YouthCity Government, The City Library and 10 public health partners.