Bad air not so bad?

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While this year is considered to be a mild year, it’s important to understand how the particulates in the air affect our bodies. The murky air or "inversion" is common in Utah from November through February. Inversion is when a warmer air mass comes over the top of the valley, trapping colder air below.

An inversion starts soon after a storm has passed and slowly builds until the next storm pushes through, cleaning the air. Bo Call with the Division of Air Quality helps monitor the pollution equipment across the state. Data is fed from thousands of stations across the state into a central database every minute, and then fed to web pages and mobile apps. Call says good air is considered up to 12.5 micrograms per cubic meter, moderate air is up to 35 micrograms per cubic meter and 55 and above is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Chief Science Officer of myAir Health, Steven Packham says while the air outside may appear dirty at times, looks can be deceiving. “There are a number of particles in the air that can make it look foggy and dirty, but they’re not really particles that can hurt the lungs,” he says.

Packham has been studying air quality in Utah for more than 20 years and says, when it comes to air pollution, we may be overprotective. “If they really knew for sure how much their lungs could handle and what the air pollution was like right then, they could actually make an informed and intelligent, real-time decision on 'can I do this right now?'” he said.

Packham says 50 percent of the particulates we breathe are expelled in a matter of hours to a couple of days. His message: “If one looks at the risks and the benefits of either being exposed and breathing air pollution or being active, the World Health Organization puts being active as a much more beneficial thing.”

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