New study compares indoor, outdoor pollution levels in Utah

Posted at 3:42 PM, Dec 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-29 17:42:25-05

LOGAN, Utah – There is not much relief from the inversion in our forecast, and while many people know to stay inside on bad air days, a recent study has found that the pollution can follow you home.

A Utah State University research professor has spent nearly a decade measuring how much air pollution can seep into homes on red air days.

Environmental Engineering Professor Randy Martin studies particulate matter, or particle pollution, here in Utah. Click here for current air quality information for the state.

On red air quality days, it’s advised that people limit outdoor activity and stay inside. Years ago, Martin wondered just how much safer the air in our homes is compared to the air in our yards.

"Our study shows the ammonium nitrate volatilizes very quickly once it becomes indoor,” Martin said.

Martin said the bad particles found in Utah’s air dissolve when heated up, which is why red air days typically only occur in the colder months, and it’s part of the reason the air inside is safer.

Branden Boyton is a service technician for SameDay Heating and Air, and he said indoor air quality issues may not be something people are aware of.

“We go into houses of people who are on oxygen, um with people that have breathing problems, and they don’t even realize it, and they don’t realize it’s an issue in their home,” he said. “It’s an issue with their filtration system.”

Boyton said air filters can make a significant difference, but not all filters are created equal.

“My theory is if you can see through it it’s obviously not catching the dust particles that are a thousandth of an inch,” he said.

Boyton said all filters have a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value rating based on how many particles they catch. The higher the rating, the cleaner your indoor air will be.

The study found that, on average, the inside air consistently contains about 25 percent of the particle pollution that's measured outside. That percentage can vary based on the presence and type of air filters, air scrubbers or UV lights in use.