SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – As if the COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad of earthquake aftershocks aren’t enough for residents in Salt Lake City, air quality remains an issue. The American Lung Association’s annual air quality report reveals nearly half of Americans are breathing unhealthy air, Salt Lake City’s air quality ranks number 11 of ozone, poorer than last year’s report.

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The 2020 ‘State of the Air’ report tracks Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution and ozone during a three-year period. In Salt Lake City between 2016-2018, short-term particle pollution placed the health of millions of residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution such as older adults, children and those with a lung disease.

JoAnna Strother, senior advocacy director of the American Lung Association in Utah says “Ozone pollution can harm even healthy people, but is particularly dangerous for children, older adults and people with lung diseases like COPD or asthma. “Breathing ozone-polluted air can trigger asthma attacks in both adults and children with asthma, which can land them in the doctor’s office or the emergency room. Ozone can even shorten people’s lives.”

The report found year-round particle pollution levels in Salt Lake City were slightly higher than last year’s report. Strother says “particle pollution can lodge deep in the lungs and can even enter the bloodstream. It can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes and cause lung cancer.” Particle pollution comes from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices.

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‘State of the Air’ 2020 also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which has the potential to be lethal. The report found that Salt Lake City had more days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels.

Many of these spikes in Salt Lake City were directly linked to weather patterns like drought which are increasing in frequency and intensity in many areas due to climate change.

Here’s a look at the full ‘State of the Air’ report.