AMERICAN FORK (News4Utah) — Utah’s poor air quality is getting worse. The recent batch of wildfires in Utah and California aren’t helping our dirty air and school leaders are taking notice.
Spanish Fork High School canceled a scrimmage football game Friday night due to poor air quality.
Fortunately, the American Fork High School football team has not had to cancel games; however, practice has been affected.
“Since the smoke has been so bad here we’ve limited conditioning,” said American Fork High School Running Backs Coach, Cole Perry. “We haven’t done a lot of conditioning this week.”
Every summer, Ozone is a top concern, but now health leaders are worried about PM 2.5s.
According to Bliss Air, PM 2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair.
“Now we have a lot of PM 2.5 from the fires so it’s a double whammy right now for people who are outdoors,” said Andrea Jensen, an asthma program coordinator at the Utah County Health Department in Provo.
Jensen says people age 18 or younger are even more vulnerable to bad air.
“They have a faster respiratory rate than we do,” said Jensen. “They’re going to be breathing in more often and they’re going to be inhaling a lot more pollution than we do.”
The Alpine School District is taking that into consideration.
Kimberly Bird, a district spokesperson, released the following statement on the matter:
“The concern of air quality and high school athletics came to the forefront of our attention as we saw firsthand, skies throughout Utah county filled with ash and debris filling the air with a dangerous haze.
During this unusual time of extremes in air quality, we see the urgency of addressing this issue for reasons of health and safety for our students.
In response, we are bringing together an advisory team to develop protocols and guidelines for closely following the air quality ratings, and defining what actions should be taken dependent upon the specific indicators.”
“The Alpine School District does a really good job at monitoring air quality,” said Perry. “If the kids coming before school, if the air quality is bad they’ll make sure the kids get indoors and not wait outside and they’ll check it before recess.”
Perry says team leaders check air quality often to ensure student-athletes are healthy and safe.
“Utah has the air quality website that we check to make sure that it’s not too extreme, so that’s something that we do,” said Perry.
People who are young, old or have asthma problems typically see the worst effects of bad air quality on their bodies, but even healthy people are negatively affected.
The Utah County Health Department encourages Utahns to download the Utah Air app on their cell phones.
The department shows air quality ratings through colored flags on its flagpole. Jensen encourages all schools and other institutions to do the same.
Jensen says Utahns must work together to raise awareness about the health dangers of poor air quality, protect students and athletes, and ultimately improve Utah’s poor air quality.