SALT LAKE CITY — A new report by the American Lung Association shows Salt Lake City had fewer days of short-term pollution spikes and lower levels of particle pollution year-round from 2014 to 2016 than it did in a previous assessment.
That's the good news.
As with the rest of the country, ozone levels in the state increased significantly — with much of that due to 2016 going down as the second hottest year on record, the report notes.
The increase in ozone led the Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem area to a ranking of the 18th most polluted area for ozone, according to the report released Wednesday.
“The 2018 ‘State of the Air’ report finds that unhealthful levels of ozone in Salt Lake City put our citizens at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and greater difficulty breathing for those living with a lung disease like (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),” said JoAnna Strother, regional director of public policy of the Lung Association in Utah.
The report found the Salt Lake City region experienced more days of elevated levels of ozone from 2014 to 2016 than from 2013 to 2015.
Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Uintah, Duchesne and Tooele counties all received an F grade for ozone pollution spikes. Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Weber and Utah received flunking grades for fine particulate pollution spikes.
Those failing grades come even as the report acknowledges that overall, year-round particle pollution is down in the state and the Salt Lake region is among 20 cities that made improvements in the number of days that exceeded federal health standards.
"In terms of fine particulate matter, we are hanging in there, but it will take tough decisions to ensure that our state attains federal air quality standards given pressures such as an increase in population, along with more housing and vehicle emissions," said Denni Cawley, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
The Utah Division of Air Quality is in the midst of developing nine new state implementation plans to attain federal clean air standards. From 2002 to 2014, pollution decreased by 30 percent — despite a 26 percent increase in population.
"As the report shows, Utah enjoys clean air the majority of the year," said Alan Matheson, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
"Nevertheless, minimizing the impact of episodic air pollution events continues to be a top priority for the Department of Environmental Quality. Partnerships, public education and enhanced regulation have improved air quality while promoting a growing and diverse economy in Utah. DEQ remains firmly committed to advance solution-focused research and take all appropriate action to protect public health."