Doctors warn of long-term impact from short-term bad air quality

Posted at 10:49 AM, Dec 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-05 13:37:12-05

SALT LAKE CITY — While bad air quality continues to plague parts of the Wasatch Front, doctors warn of the dangerous impact small doses of bad air quality can have on a seemingly ‘healthy’ person’s overall health.

You can see it, you can smell it, you can almost taste it — when it comes to poor air quality, the Salt Lake Valley is no stranger.

“It’s a much greater problem than just a breathing problem,” said Dr. Brian Moench, President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

During a bad air day, your typical weather forecast will warn that conditions are ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups,’ otherwise known as children, elderly and those with preexisting conditions such as asthma or COPD.

While those groups could suffer the most from poor air, Moench said even those who are considered ‘healthy’ need to be concerned.

“We need to clear up some of the misconceptions about [bad air],” Moench said. “This air quality is not just a problem for sensitive groups, it’s a health hazard for everyone.”

Think of it this way, when you breathe bad air, the toll it takes on your body is similar to those created by smoking cigarettes.

“It affects all the critical organs, it affects brain function, it affects heart function, it’s even a provocateur of cancer, it’s a serious problem for people who are pregnant,” Moench said. “Studies, in fact, show that air pollution is related to a whole range of hospitalizations for things like infections and kidney disease, type two diabetes.”

As weekend storm blow in, inversion is expected to blow out. It’s a short stint of bad air, but the impact on your health could last much longer.

“Some of the particles we’re inhaling are still inside our body for as long as two to three months later and when they’re inside our body they act like little invaders and they’re causing biological damage,” said Moench.

To help mitigate harm, Moench recommends purchasing an at-home air purifier, or wearing a mark when outside. He also recommends taking mass transit, to reduce emissions.

You can find current air quality reports HERE.