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Hottest month doesn’t lead to expected ozone pollution

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Posted at 10:00 PM, Aug 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-08 00:00:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's culprit for bad air in the summer is a gas created when the sun heats up pollutants floating in the air.

It's called ozone. It's mostly invisible, but it can cause respiratory problems just as harmful as the more visible and reviled winter inversion on the Wasatch Front and in the Cache Valley.

So with July 2013 a full two degrees hotter on average than July of 2012, there should have been a big ozone problem.

Turns out 2012 was worse in terms of air quality.

"Last summer we also had a lot of fires with the valleys filled with smoke, and this year we haven't had a lot of that," said Bo Call, the air monitoring manager with the Utah Division of Air Quality.

Fires seem to be the likely difference-maker amidst the long list of pollution creators.

Cars and trucks contribute more ozone-creating pollution to the Wasatch Front than any other pollutions source. It's possible Utahns drove less, especially with gas costing between 20 and 30 cents more per gallon in July of 2013, but there is no evidence suggesting fewer cars are on the road.

Industry contributes 22 percent of air pollution on the Wasatch Front, and Kennecott did suffer a crippling landslide in their open-pit copper mine in the Spring. But Kennecott tells FOX 13 News they ramped up work within days of the slide. They said they are running their equipment and their power plant as much as they did last summer.