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Doctors in Utah say air pollution bigger problem than previously known

SALT LAKE CITY – A group of doctors say current environmental regulations on air pollution aren’t tight enough.  They’re citing recent studies that show even on lighter days, pollution leads to major health problems.

One study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that doctors link pollution to premature deaths.

“It occurs even at lower levels of pollution than people have been paying very much attention to in the past,” says Doctor Robert Paine with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, adding that even levels of particulate matter and ozone deemed as acceptable by the EPA can still be unhealthy.  He says between 1,000 and 2,000 people die in Utah because of air pollution.

Another study strengthened the connection between ozone and pregnancy and delivery, and not just with chronic ozone exposure.

“There’s also an increased risk of stillbirth with an acute event, like today,” explains Dr. Kirtly Jones, OB/GYN.

The third study addressed what happens when particulate matter is absorbed into the human body.  Doctor Robert Moench says the recent study shows these particles tend to go to parts of blood vessels that are already inflamed.

He says, “Then they breathe air pollution, and those particles accumulate in areas that are already at risk.  That can be an event that precipitates that person’s heart attack or stroke.”

Moench says the state has the ability to set regulations that are higher than the EPA, although they can’t specify what those exact regulations should be.  Plus, he says lawmakers should also take a closer look at fireworks.

“If our inversion is a problem, and it is, our fireworks situation is also becoming a problem for a number of reasons.  It’s not just large fireworks displays. The fireworks have become kind of a fad,” Moench says.

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He also says lawmakers should also encourage developers to build more roundabouts than intersections, which would reduce the amount of time cars idle within Utah.