Inversion conditions expected to continue through weekend in Salt Lake Valley

Posted at 8:00 PM, Dec 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-30 22:00:40-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- The Department of Environmental Quality says the Salt Lake Valley usually has about 20 bad air days a year, and most of them happen in the winter.

Friday's conditions had many Utahns expressing their frustration.

“Its disgusting down here!” Melissa Byrd said.

Judd Sheranian, another resident, said it's something you can feel with each breath.

“The air is bad, you can feel it when you breathe, you know the bad air affecting your lungs,” Sheranian said.

Bryce Bird, Air Quality Director with the DEQ, spoke in more specific terms about the impacts.

“Really it's the impact on the lungs, it's the particles' impact on the lungs, so when the layer of warm air traps the cold air at the valley floor it traps all the pollutants that we emit," he said. "And then those pollutants concentrate over time, and we've seen those concentrations go up over the last few days."

The DEQ says they don't expect the bad air to clear out until Sunday at the earliest. Until then, they are warning everyone about what bad air stuck under the inversion layer can do.

“It's the particles that impact our lungs and our entire body," Bird said. "We see the incidences of heart attack go up during the time of an inversion, of course an increase in the use of asthma medication goes up when we have high pollution episodes."

Health officials warn Utahns to avoid heavy exertion outside on bad air days, especially if you are under the inversion layer. What can hit your lungs is the same pollutants that hit the DEQ's air pollution sample pads, which start out as white as copy paper.

“This would be a kind of a clean typical winter day, and then as we see the inversion persist those concentrations go up and the particles become more dense and the concentration goes up," Bird explained as he showed the sample pads changing to darker colors. "And so once we get into this range, this is where the particles are getting past the natural defense in your body, they're interacting in your lungs."

Samples like these are taken every day all over the state.

“…and this is what we are really focused on," Bird said. "This is the smoke the soot, the ammonia nitrate."

Judy Lord said she's feeling the impact as well.

"Most of the day I've had a gravelly voice today, and there’s nothing I can seem to do about it, and it's this air I'm sure,” Lord said.

To get more information and see air quality conditions in your area, click here.