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Wasatch Front air pollution could double COVID-19 patients' risk of death, environmental group says

Posted at 12:31 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 14:31:05-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment released a dire warning about the potentially fatal effects of Utah's air pollution on COVID-19 patients.

According to a news release from UPHE, the air pollution levels that exist along the Wasatch Front during the winter inversion season could double a COVID-19 patient's risk of death.

Harvard University researchers found a small increase in long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is associated with a 15 percent increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate.

UPHE said Harvard's findings should be of particular concern for people living along the Wasatch Front, where air pollution in the PM 2.5 range reaches 8-9 micrograms per cubic meter during winter inversions.

"Given that the Wasatch Front averages about 8-9 ug/m3 PM2.5 (with winter inversion spikes up to 50-70), that means that Wasatch Front air pollution more than doubles the risk of death from the coronavirus," a news release from UPHE said.

UPHE is calling for the rejection of public policies that would worsen Utah's air pollution.

"It's really unfortunate that we can't enjoy this wonderful spring weather and blossoms coming out and have to think very serious issues like this. But ignorance shouldn't be bliss. We should understand what kind of risk we're facing and, unfortunately, this study highlights a brand new approach to how serious a problem our air pollution is," said Dr. Brian Moench, president of UPHE.