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Unhealthy air quality taking over Utah; DEQ advises reconsidering outdoor Labor Day plans

Posted at 8:59 PM, Sep 06, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY -- Bad air quality is settling in across Utah as the state faces two types of pollutants from summertime conditions and smoke from wildfires in surrounding states.

“The air quality isn’t great right now,” said Jared Mendenhall with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Timelapse videos, from the Oquirrh Mountains to the Wasatch Front, show thick smoke quickly settling in across northern Utah Sunday afternoon.

According to the DEQ Air Quality Forecast, much of the beehive state is experiencing ‘orange’ air quality, meaning it is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

“The people with heart and lung conditions, the people with asthma, they’re going to find it hard to breathe,” said Mendenhall. “For the rest of us, it’s going to be just hazy, murky skies.”

Charts show the poor air can be attributed to two types of pollutants that the state is experiencing. The first: Utah’s typical summertime pollution, ozone.

“We saw a big increase in temperatures over the weekend,” Mendenhall said. “With the extra sunlight and those temperatures, that’s the recipe for ozone pollution.”

The second: Utah’s typical wintertime pollution, PM 2.5, which are small particles that can "bypass the human filtration system" and lodge in the lungs, causing irritation.

“When you mix [ozone] in with the fine particulates that are coming in the smoke from California, then we have that double whammy and that’s what we saw today," Mendenhall said.

The forecast shows hazy skies sticking around through the Labor Day holiday, but as the weather changes, so will our air quality.

“It’s going to cool down a little bit,” said Mendenhall. “That will limit the ozone production, and then hopefully we can get some fronts in to clear out some of this smoke.”

According to DEQ, this stint of unhealthy air will be short-lived. Still, they advise those in sensitive groups to stay inside and reconsider any outdoor Labor Day plans.

You can always check the air forecast for your area on the DEQ’s website.