Lung Association’s ‘State of the Air’ report ranks Utah high in pollution

Apr 20, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 6:37 pm

State of the Air report...

Smog blankets the Salt Lake valley, as seen from Herriman, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The American Lung Association reports Utah is one of the states with the worst air quality in the nation. But that ranking may not be as bleak as it seems.

In its annual “State of the Air” report, the ALA said Salt Lake City placed 10th for worst ozone pollution. The ALA ranked Utah at 19th (and the city of Logan at 17th) for short-term particle pollution.

Additionally, several Utah counties got F grades for both types of pollution.

However, when comparing Utah pollution levels to other states, Logan Mitchell with the University of Utah Atmospheric Sciences Department said a few clarifying factors should be noted. Those include the state’s geographical layout and its altitude. 

“We’re ver familiar with the wintertime air pollution challenges that we have in the state,” Mitchell told KSL NewsRadio, “we have a valley, we get these inversions. 

“What’s not quite as well known is that in the summertime, we have really big challenges with ozone.” Mitchell said the ozone level is certainly connected to ozone emissions, but it’s also connected to altitude and how much sunlight we get.

Because of these factors, Mitchell said Utah has further to climb to reach required air quality standards.

“We have made tremendous strides over the years to improve our air quality, we still have more to go,” said Mitchell.

He said, going forward, issues like vehicle and lawn care emissions need to be at the forefront.

“We’re not going to solve this challenge until we have widespread adoption of electric vehicles,” said Mitchell 

Ashley Sumner with the Department of Environmental Quality points to another contributing factor to Utah’s summertime pollution — lawn care equipment.

“Running a leaf blower for an hour is equivalent to driving 727 miles which is like driving from Ogden to Disney Land,” said Sumner. This statistic originated from a study conducted by Edmunds InsideLine.com in 2011. 

Sumner also says Utah has made significant improvements to the air quality over the last several years.

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Lung Association’s ‘State of the Air’ report ranks Utah high in pollution