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Wildfires impacting our air quality and long term health

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – If you’ve stepped outside today, you know the fires are now having a real impact on our air quality along the Wasatch Front.


Until firefighters get a better handle on the wildfires and storms roll through, we’ll be dealing with bad air and ozone for some time.

Health experts really want you to be extra careful.


Dr. Nathan Dean, Section Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Intermountain Medical Center usually bikes to work, but not today.

“It’s counterproductive to exercise outside. It smells bad. It looks bad and it’s worse than people think for your lungs and for their health in general.”

Health experts say don’t exercise outdoors for the time being.

Dr. Dean says, the elderly, and those with underlying health issues are especially affected. But bad air affects everyone.

The long-term impact on your health include:

  • pneumonia
  • asthma
  • respiratory infections
  • heart disease
  • lung cancer
  • a negative effect on children’s developing lungs
  • COPD

“It’s been said that air pollution like this is like second-hand smoke. It’s scientifically different. I don’t think you have to make that analogy anymore there are more papers that have come out that show Utah’s short-term air pollution contributes to all of these bad effects,” said Dean. 

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is tracking the fires and wind conditions.

“As long as the wind is blowing and it’s blowing the smoke around we’ll probably see some unhealthy levels,” said Donna Kemp Spangler, Utah DEQ Spokesperson.


The DEQ says conditions can fluctuate hourly.

In the summer, we normally see problems with ozone, in the winter you want to watch out for the particulate matter. But because of the wildfires in the Uintah Basin, particulate pollution is spiking too.

“Limit activity outside and be mindful that we contribute to the air quality and it will continue to get worse if we continue to drive our cars. So avoid driving, consolidate your trips or avoid it,” said Spangler. 

Unlike the winter, when there’s an inversion with high particulate matter, you can’t escape into the mountains in the summer. The air is bad up there too.


Check current air conditions: https://air.utah.gov/
 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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