Red air quality in northern Utah

Posted at 8:11 AM, Feb 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-04 20:45:04-05

SALT LAKE CITY - After a week-long reprieve from the bad air across northern Utah, the inversion and pollution have returned. The number of red air days so far this year is staggering and state officials are struggling to find a solution.

So far this winter, there have been 22 red air days. By this time last winter, there were only 5.

Residents along the Wasatch Front say they're sick of the bad air and the health problems it seems to bring.

"I walk to work every day and it's absolutely nasty. You come out and you can barely see two or three feet in front of your face," said Nathan Bowman. "I've noticed I've kind of been coughing a lot at night and kind of have that sinus pressure. It's disgusting."

Air quality officials are hearing the complaints and say they can no longer sit back and let it happen, and now legally, they can't. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is calling on officials to come up with solid solutions to reducing pollution. After missing a December deadline, they're hurrying to turn in new rules.

One solution they've considered is requiring companies to provide low-fume consumer products.

"Some states have already done that in the East Coast. And some places in the Midwest already ban aerosol products because they contain VOC which is a precursor for particulate pollution in the air," said Donna Spangler, Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Air quality experts say they're already doing some things, like calling for mandatory "no burn" days much earlier.

"The standard being at 35 micrograms per cubic meter. Now we call a mandatory no burn at 15 because we know that inversion is setting in," Spangler said.

Spangler says that more can be done, but it's a good starting point. In the meantime, all Utahns can do their part by reducing trips, avoiding idling and carpooling or using public transportation.

In Davis and Salt Lake Counties, the DEQ warns the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups, including people with lung disease, such as asthma, as well as children and older adults. Those groups and people who are active outdoors should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.

Burning is restricted in all northern Utah counties expect Tooele County. People are asked to reduce driving, use mass transit or carpool as possible.

DEQ rated Box Elder, Cache, Weber, Tooele and Utah Counties at a moderate air quality level.