Utah Air Quality Doesn’t Meet the Grade in American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2021 Report

This year’s American Lung Association “State of the Air” report finds that Utah’s air quality received mixed results for the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. Salt Lake City metro and Dunchesne County saw increases in the number of days ozone reached unhealthy levels. Logan saw the same number of days as in last year’s report. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“People in Utah continue to be impacted by unhealthy air, especially children, those over 65, people with COPD, lung cancer or cardiovascular disease and people of color,” said JoAnna Strother, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association. “Even otherwise healthy individuals can experience shortness of breath and coughing when air pollutants are high. More must be done to protect our public health.” 

Ozone Pollution in Utah
Compared to the 2020 report, the Salt Lake City metro area saw more days of unhealthy ozone levels. As a result, Salt Lake City metro now ranks as the 8th most polluted city in the U.S., compared to 11th in last year’s report. Duchesne county also had more days of unhealthy ozone, and dropped to 44th most polluted city for ozone, up from 64th in last year’s report. Logan mirrored last year’s results for ozone pollution. 

Particle Pollution in Utah
“State of the Air” 2021 found that year-round particle pollution levels in the Salt Lake City metro improved to its best-ever ranking, improving from 65th in last year’s report to 105th this year. Logan also saw its best ever average and improved its ranking in this category. The report also tracks short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that the Salt Lake City metro saw fewer days of short-term particle matter, improving its ranking from 7th in last year’s report to now tie for 17th, while Logan saw more days of short-term particle pollution, moving into the 7th most polluted area, up from 13th in last year’s report. St. George earned a spot on the “cleanest cities list” for short-term particles. 

The year’s report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) live in areas with polluted air, placing health and lives at risk. In Utah, pollution also placed residents’ health in peril, especially those who are more vulnerable to the effects of such pollution, including older adults, children and people with a lung disease. The report also shows that people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. The report also finds that climate change has made air quality worse.

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period – this year’s report covers 2017-2019. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular damage and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.

Learn more about “State of the Air” at Lung.org/sota and sign the petition to urge the Biden Administration to promote clean air and environmental justice.

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