Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
Ed Yeates ReportingYou see the sun, you feel the heat, but it's what you don't see and what you don't feel in this summer heat wave that may be your biggest danger.
A high pressure system has brought triple-digit temperatures and smoggy air to the Wasatch Front. But an invisible danger lurks out there in all that hot air. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is warning everyone, even healthy adults and children, to limit their time outdoors engaged in active play or exercise.
For those of you with really good noses, you can smell something in the air right now. It's a gas in our atmosphere called ozone. The State's pollution watchdogs say at these high concentrations, everybody will feel the effects.
The recipe is ripe in the worst way and state pollution monitors are sucking it all in. Mix high pressure summer sunshine, hot temperatures, and exhaust emissions in our big basin bowl and you've brewed up a large serving of ozone. That's what we have right now.
Steve Packham, State Department of Environmental Quality: "It is perhaps the most potent irritant that is part of the air pollution cocktail that we develop."
Eyes may tear, burn, or smart a bit. There's more saliva in the mouth and back of the throat and increased mucous in the nose and lungs.
Steve Packham: "Almost every person can feel that initial irritant effect regardless of whether they're healthy or ill."
The State isn't telling us not to go outside, but when we do, to simply limit activity which makes us breathe harder. That's because prolonged ozone concentrations in the lung can lead to inflammation, which in turn opens the door for what are called opportunistic infections.
Steve Packham: "It seems to be a common denominator or precursor to almost every respiratory disease that we know of."
Bronchitis, intensified allergic reactions, asthmatic wheezing, respiratory viral and bacterial infections - these and more can all become secondary complications when the delicate membranes of the lungs are inflamed. So until we pour this potent brew out of the air, breathe a little easier outside by limiting strenuous activity.
Steve Packham: "The logic behind that is that at these higher levels those initial or primary defense mechanisms of the body are more easily overpowered."
Though you may be sucking outside air into your home through say a swamp cooler, Packham says the water in those coolers is a good scrubber and easily dilutes the ozone concentration.