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SALT LAKE CITY — The first real winter inversion of the season settled in the Salt Lake Valley Friday with air quality that is expected to get worse before it gets better.
The latest tests show the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups, including babies and young children, as well as the elderly and those with respiratory conditions. But even for healthy people, exercising outside right now is not a good idea.
“Really, the advisory is to avoid heavy exertion outdoors,” said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality. “And so if you are going to exercise, move it indoors or up and out of the inversion.”
Above the inversion at Ensign Peak trailhead, the sun was shining Friday afternoon and the temperature was 10 degrees warmer than in the valley.
Winter inversions are common. They become unhealthy when pollutants get trapped in the air and people breathe them. The Utah Division of Air Quality uses tiny filters to measure pollution every day.
“As the inversion builds up we get higher concentrations and this is what goes into our lungs,” Bird explained.
So air quality officials are urging all residents to do whatever’s possible to reduce pollutants put into the air.
“Really, it is just realizing that every time we combust a fuel that leads to emissions," Bird said. "If we use paints and solvents, that leads to emissions. And even as we heat our homes, and water heaters, that contributes to the pollution that we have. And so the best thing to do is think about our activities and ask, does this pollute?”
Another example — setting off fireworks to ring in the new year can pump fine-particulate pollution into the air. Less driving is probably the best way for most residents to reduce pollution, according to experts. For more ideas, visit the UCAIR website.
For those concerned about air quality, the state offers an app that is updated every hour with reports for several counties in the state. Also, residents can check the Utah Division of Air Quality website.