Experts discuss symptoms, effectiveness of masks as air quality worsens

Posted at 7:35 PM, Jan 07, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- For days, a blanket of air has covered the valley and trapped pollution in the lower elevations. In return, it's impacting people's health.

“Common symptoms may be coughing, sneezing, excess mucus problems--some people can have headaches, fatigue can be an issue,” said Nathan Lacross, who is an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.

Those are some of the symptoms Tom Sobieski, owner of the consignment store Iconoclad, began to have.

“Last year I started to notice I'd get these nauseating headaches whenever I was driving or out walking, and my thought was it could only be the inversion because it only happened when I was out in the car and it took hours to recover from it,” Sobieski said.

There are several masks that aim to block PM 2.5, the type of air pollution we see during winter inversions.

“You look crazy to be wearing a mask sometimes, but I think it's ten times crazier to be out there breathing that," Sobieski said. "It's not worth the health issues."

But the Utah Department of Health warns that not all masks are made equal.

“Many masks are not able to filter out objects of that size, so most masks wouldn't do much in those situations,” Lacross said.

The effectiveness of these masks are still up for debate, and the Utah Department of Health does not endorse any particular mask but they said if the air quality is bad to avoid going outside if you can.

Current information about air quality can be found on the Department of Environmental Quality's website. Click here, and then select your county to view the forecast.