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Groups urge Utahns to include clean air efforts among New Year’s resolutions

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Posted at 6:26 PM, Dec 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-31 20:26:03-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The inversion over the Salt Lake Valley is expected to continue into 2016, and clean air advocates hope Utahns will include an air quality resolution when making goals for the coming year.

Thursday, the levels of particulate matter in the air peaked at 29.7 ug/m3, just below the threshold for an “unhealthy” air day. Earlier in the week, levels reached unhealthy twice.

“What we have is a trifecta effect,” said Utah Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Donna Kemp Spangler. “We have cold temperatures and snow on the ground.”

Its days like these that give Utah mom Ingrid Griffee anxiety. When kids are home for winter break, they can’t be outside.

“There’s a lot of worry about the effects air pollution has on young kids,” said Griffee, who is also a member of the clean air advocacy group Utah Moms for Clean Air. “We want to be able to do something.”

That’s why Griffee is suggesting a New Year's resolution related to air quality. She says a simple goal of reducing idling or participating in a car pool can have major impacts.

“One of the biggest, easiest things moms can do, I think, is to remember to turn off their cars when they drop their kids off at school or pick them up from school,” Griffee said. “School parking lots can become pollution hot spots.”

In those pollution hot spots, air quality can typically be worse than what’s reported on the DEQ’s website, which is why physicians say people should monitor the levels themselves, particularly if they’re in a sensitive group.

“We also know that vulnerable groups, the elderly, the very young pregnant women, are more likely to have problems related to these small particles in the air,” said University of Utah Hospital Pulmonology Division director Dr. Robert Paine.

State DEQ directors also have a goal to meet, and it could be more serious in 2016.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to call out Utah on their winter smog. Currently they have a 2019 deadline to clean up the air.