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NORTH LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Researchers who tested the lungs of children at a northern Utah school found no significant change after they played outside on some winter days.
The purpose of the study was to determine whether winter inversions, when cold air and pollutants are trapped under warmer air, were having an impact on the lung capacities of kids during 20-minute recesses.
There were 100 children in the study, ages 7 to 12, and half had asthma. They blew into a spirometer, which measures lung function, before and after recess last winter.
There was no notable effect on their ability to breathe, even on bad-air days, the Utah Division of Air Quality said, citing preliminary results.
"Although the results need to be verified, this is good news," said Cheryl Heying, air-quality director.
The study was done during a relatively mild season for bad-air days in the Cache Valley. An alert is triggered when the daily average of fine particles known as PM 2.5 reaches 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
The study involved several agencies, including the University of Utah and the local Bear River Health Department.
"The data does not prove that the current guidelines should be relaxed but it does suggest that the current guidelines are very protective," Steven Packham, toxicologist at the Division of Air Quality, said in a department newsletter.
Greenville Elementary Principal Joel Allred keeps kids inside on some bad-air days. That has its own risks.
"It's problematic when you throw them in a gym, and there's 400 kids bouncing off the walls," he said.
"I was putting ice packs and bandages on people. And so you really look at this and think, 'Which is worse, sending them outside or having them bang each other to pieces in the gymnasium?"' Allred quipped.
Salt Lake and Davis counties had a record 28 days last winter when the state asked residents to limit their driving and not use wood-burning stoves or fireplaces.
Information from: The Herald Journal
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)