Study: Salt Lake, Orem and Provo among worst in the nation for air pollution

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Downtown Salt Lake City is visible (just barely) from the foothills east of the city, Dec. 15, 2017. The American Lung Association gives many urban areas failing grades for air quality.

Washington • The Salt Lake City area was among the top 10 worst places for short-term air pollution in the country, putting the health of millions of people in the region at risk, according to a new report.

Salt Lake City, Provo and Orem ranked No. 8 of metropolitan areas affected by pollution during a certain time period and the Logan area came in at No. 11, the American Lung Association says in a new warning about rising levels of dirty air Americans are breathing. The cities were not among the top 25 in the country for year-round pollution.

Still, during parts of the year, about 2.6 million people along the Wasatch Front could see their health decline because of the high levels of particles in the air and another 138,000 around Logan. Most affected, the report says, are those under age 18, older than 65, and those who have asthma, cancer, diabetes, another disease or live in poverty.

“We certainly do not want to be ranked highly on this list,” says state Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, founder and co-chairwoman of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus. “We’d like to be on the list of the cleanest cities.”

Researchers on Tuesday announced a study that found a connection between those who were childhood cancer survivors and those hospitalized for breathing problems. Most of those hospitalizations, according to the study, were within three days of a major bad air event, like wintertime inversions.

On the good news front: Six of the 26 most-polluted cities the association tracks reported fewer unhealthy air days than in the last report.

“Despite being among the 10 most-polluted, Salt Lake City dropped to its fewest days ever reported on average,” the report said.

Several counties in the state, though, received failing grades for air quality.

Salt Lake, Utah, Uintah, Tooele, Davis, Duchesne and Weber counties were rated with an F, while Washington and Box Elder counties received C’s and Cache, Carbon and San Juan B’s. Most counties in the state didn’t have air monitors or sufficient data for analysis, the association said.

The report also looked at high ozone days, which refer to times when smog is high and unhealthy.

Several counties in Utah where there was enough data to study were cited as trouble spots, including Davis, Duchesne, Salt Lake, Tooele, Uintah, Utah and Weber counties were given F’s.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt lake Tribune)

“People have not been talking about that,” Arent said of ozone. “They talked about the inversions in the winter. And we hear a lot about pollution when there are wildfires. … In terms of summer and fall, we don’t often hear as much about ozone, but it certainly threatens our health.”