Health experts warn Utah residents to prepare for the dust

Health experts warn Utah residents to prepare for the dust

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The skies may be clearer than they were in June, but that doesn't mean the air will be cleaner. As a matter of fact, air quality officials expect more complaints over one certain item: dust.

Utah had a record number of rainy days last month, which kept dust levels down. Well, we can kiss low dust levels goodbye for now.

"We had an easy June. [It's] the kind of weather we like, as far as dust complaints. We had very few dust complaints, but as things get dry and hot we'll get more dust complaints, I'm sure," said Rusty Ruby, air standards branch manager for the Utah Division of Air Quality.

One thing that adds to dust levels is construction. With the City Creek Project still underway and the Utah Department of Transportation working on 29 projects statewide, dust is definitely going to be kicked up. Ruby says the state tries to mitigate construction dust as much as possible.

"If they're within the Wasatch Front, we have a rule that says, under certain circumstances: if you're going to expose surface area to dust or have a construction project, you need a fugitive dust control plan," Ruby said.

One of the most effective ways to keep fugitive dust down may seem like one of the simplest.

"If you keep that surface wet, you won't get dust," Ruby explained.

The problem is that it's hard to keep a construction surface wet when it's hot and dry out.

Summer health problems caused by dust

Even though we're in a low pollen season, Dr. Alan Bitner of the Intermountain Allergy and Asthma Clinic says dust can still cause other problems during the summer.

"Even if it's during that ‘non-allergy' season, during the hot part of the summer you still have some residual pollen that's all settled down into that dust. That dust is a combination of things," Bitner explained. "We still see asthma through that time period, and so it's suspected that it is due to other environmental things, such as increased dust."

However, there are traditionally fewer cases of asthma during the summer than the winter.

Limiting your contact with dust

There are ways people who are prone to asthma can limit their contact with dust. For instance, if you're driving, Bitner says you should flip your air conditioner to recirculated air instead of so-called "fresh" air from outside.

If you live near a construction site and you feel the air is getting too dusty for you, call the Division of Air Quality. They investigate complaints and fine construction companies if they have to.


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Paul Nelson


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