SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Are you worried about bad air quality in Utah? You now have a chance to weigh in with a public comment period on National Air Quality Standards. 

Under the Federal Clean Air Act, there is a standard for each pollutant in the air, the EPA is reconsidering the National Standard for Particulate Matter or PM 2.5. which covers fine particulates like smoke, dust, and other gas emissions.  

For those of us who live in the northern valleys in wintertime, we know that air quality can degrade quickly when inversions are in place. 

Climate Scientist and Energy Analyst at Utah Clean Energy Logan Mitchell says “There’s really no safe level of air pollution, it’s kind of like smoking, there are no safe levels of smoking, those particulates get into your lungs and cause all sorts of health impacts.” 

Last week, air quality became a concern in several counties along Northern Utah with ‘Unhealthy’ air reported. Although we exceeded the air quality standard for those days, our average air quality is meeting 35 micrograms per cubic meter, which is ‘Moderate’ air quality.

Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality Bryce Bird said “When we exceed that standard we see increased hospitalization for asthma, we see increased medication usage for asthma, we see increases in heart attacks…it is very clear that air pollution still impacts us even when we are meeting the standard.” 

Utah just started meeting the EPA standards for PM 2.5 within the past few years. Which is an annual PM 2.5 reading over 3 years of 12 micrograms per cubic meter or less. This also includes a 24-hour average of less than 35 micrograms per cubic meter (averaged over a three-year period). The EPA is considering lowering the annual 12 micrograms per cubic meter to between 9 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

“We are actually in compliance with that standard today, but anybody who’s lived through that last inversion, has gone outside, and tried to breathe, just living here through these inversions, we can tell, we know, that it ought to be lowered, we have this first-hand experience of the pollution and that it should be lowered,” says Mitchell.  

The EPA is looking for data and comments that would help influence their decision. “Any health data or any other comments that would influence that decision on where that would land, I imagine that some industry groups or maybe transportation groups would focus on the cost of a lower standard, of course, the health benefits, the cleaner the air the healthier it is so certainly there’s a health benefit to having that standard as low as possible,” said Bird.  

The comment period will run through March 28th and is on the government regulations website found here.