Wildfires in nearby states create haze, health concerns for Utahns

Posted at 8:14 PM, Aug 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-20 00:02:54-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Smoke from massive wildfires in the northwest is hovering over Utah, creating bad air quality conditions for residents of the Beehive State.

The air quality is akin to what residents often see during a winter inversion--and, along with the haze blocking the view of the mountains, comes health concerns.

“They're going to see a lot of haze. It doesn't look pretty, and actually it not only looks bad: It is bad,” said Donna Spangler, Communications Director for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Yellow day after yellow day, the DEQ's Division of Air Quality is sending out moderate air warnings as the air quality nears dangerous levels, causing health hazards for those outside.

“Some of the symptoms can be throat irritation, throat burning, cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness if people have underlying heart disease,” said Doctor Denitza Blagev, who is a pulmonologist.

It's bad timing for bad air, as kids are back in school and anxious for recess time outdoors.

“The first week of school, you don't want to have to stay in, you want to get them in that routine of, 'It's a fun year, lets go out for recess' but it’s really to put those rules into effect. If they're not able to go outside, it throws everything off,” said Kristie Howe, a teacher and parent.

If these air conditions continue, students, like Gage, who have breathing problems will have to stay inside during recess.

“Sometimes the bad air days make it so it's hard for [Gage] to fully participate in the outdoor activities," Howe said. "He might be coughing if he's running too much or gets really excited."

Gage said when the air is hazy, he stays inside playing checkers while all his classmates go outside.

So far no school districts have canceled outdoor recess, but if conditions get worse they will. As for when this gunk will go away, the Division of Air Quality expects it will linger around for several more days.

You can check the air quality here.