ENVIRONMENT

Protecting your health during Utah’s inversion season

Dec 6, 2023, 9:22 AM | Updated: Dec 15, 2023, 5:19 pm

Inversion season has arrived in Utah. How can you protect yourself from unhealthy exposure to pollu...

FILE: A temperature inversion traps and fills Utah valley with thick smog as seen from Traverse Mountain on January 31, 2017 in Alpine, Utah. Severe inversions have plagued Utah's large cities for many years. (George Frey/Getty Images)

(George Frey/Getty Images)

Salt Lake City — According to the University of Utah, the air quality in the Wasatch Front exceeds federal health safety levels several times during inversion season. Exposure to unhealthy air quality during inversion days can lead to the development of diseases such as lung cancer, COPD, and heart disease. 

According to the Intermountain Health webpage, there are ways you can protect yourself from air pollution that gets trapped during inversion days. 

Protecting yourself from inversion pollution

Monitor the air quality levels. Before you go outside, check AirNow for real-time updates on the air quality index in your area. 

Intermountain Health recommended staying indoors on inversion days. Even if you aren’t sensitive to polluted air, limit your exposure to the outside air to 30 minutes.

Avoid participating in strenuous outdoor activities on inversion days. Intermountain Health said that breathing faster, as we do during intense workouts, causes us to take in more pollutants. On the worst inversion days, opt for indoor exercise regardless of whether or not you’re in a sensitive group. 

If you have to go outside on inversion days, the American Lung Association said that wearing an N-95 or KN-95 mask “May be beneficial during high AQI days.” Cloth masks, however, are not effective, as fine PM 2.5 particles can slip through them. 

PM 2.5 particles are microscopic droplets or particles that are in pollution. 

Additionally, the National Library of Medicine recommended cleaning indoor air with air purifiers or filters. The American Lung Association said that pollution can get indoors through open windows and doors. Furthermore, it can be tracked inside by pets or on clothing and shoes. 

An Intermountain Health study found that HEPA filters can reduce the number of PM2.5 particles found in the home. According to the study, only 5% of the air in homes with filters contained PM2.5 particles. On the contrary, the study detected that 28% of the air in homes without filters contained particles. 

Related: Inversions and pollution: what’s the difference?

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Protecting your health during Utah’s inversion season