Air Quality and it's Affects on Children By Erica Allred

It's no secret that air quality is a problem in Utah.

“Salt Lake City's air quality has improved, but is still ranked as the sixth worst in the nation, according to the latest State of the Air report from the American Lung Association” (Penrod 1).

So, what causes such bad air quality?

The INversion

What is an inversion?

Pollution put into the air by cars, factories, and coal powered energy plants gets trapped in the Salt Lake Valley during the inversion season. This results in dangerously bad air quality.

An inversion is bad for everyone. But children, especially those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, are Affected the worst.

What is Asthma?

Studies show that rates of Asthma among children are getting worse.

“Recent trends suggest an increase in both the prevalence and morbidity of the disease, especially in children younger than 6 years” (Allergy Landscape 2).

Number of children who currently have asthma: 6.2 million (National Center for Health Statistics).

Percent of children who currently have asthma: 8.4% (National Center for Health Statistics).

Number of deaths: 3,651 (National Center for Health Statistics).

Asthma will affect these kids throughout their whole lives and could even kill them. While there is no strong evidence correlating the number of children who have asthma with poor air quality, it is and undisputed fact that poor air quality can trigger asthma attacks.

The Good News

The air quality in Utah has improved in recent years. has collected data on the quality of Utah's air for the past 35 years. They calculate the average yearly air quality and put it on a scale from "Good" to "Hazardous" (35 Years Air of Salt Lake City).

For most of the last 35 years, the yearly average was in the "Moderate" range with a few years where the average was "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" (35 Years Air of Salt Lake City).

However, in 2014, in average made it down to the "Good" range. (35 Years Air of Salt Lake City).

For more detailed information, check out

The Bad News

The inversion is part of our local Topography. It will never go away completely. also has a graph that breaks down the makeup of the pollution in Utah. In 1980 the pollution was mostly made up of SO2. Today it is mostly made up of O3 (Ozone).

Climate Change will cause an increase in the negative consequences of ozone pollution. The Union of Concerned Scientist published a the study Climate Change and your Health. Their findings show that ozone pollution is a serious risk to children, "Exposure to an increase in ozone concentrations 18 on the order of 10 ppb—beyond an already elevated background level—is associated with increased hospital admissions for pneumonia, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and other respiratory diseases, as well as with premature death (The Union of Concerned Scientists 12).

What Can We Do?

Treat the Children

Asthma can be treated in two way; quick relief and long term control (Childhood Asthma 45-46).

Quick relief treatments include things like inhalers. Some inhalers can be purchased over the counter. others require a prescription from a doctor (Childhood Asthma 47).

Long term medications come in many forms. The most common ones for children are Corticosteroids administered in liquid form or via a neutralizer (Childhood Asthma 48).

If the air quality reaches a certain level, children with asthma or other resperatory conditions should stay inside for recess.

Cut Down on Pollution

There are plenty of things that we can do to help make a healthier environment for everyone!

Use Public Transportation!

Personal cars are one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases in Utah. Taking a bus or train a few times a week can help cut down on personal carbon emissions!


If Public Transportation isn't a good option, find someone to carpool with! Every time two people carpool takes one car off the road! This means less carbon pollution and healthier air!

Don't Burn Wood!

Burning wood releases large amounts of harmful gases into the air. These gases include, "benzene, formaldhyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (Wood Smoke and Your Health 1).The public health risks are even worse during inversion season. There are many cleaner and more efficient ways to warm your home. Avoid burning wood whenever possible.

Ride a Bike!

Salt Lake City has set up Greenbike Stations near the downtown area! Just take a bike and ride it to the station nearest to your destination! Using these stations will help improve health, help save on gas, and help clean up the air (General Questions 2)!

Invest in Alternative Energy!

Today it is more affordable that ever to put solar panels on a house! Most of the electricity purchased for homes in Utah is produced from burning coal. Burning coal is a large source of air pollution that intensifies the affects of an inversion and climate change. Putting solar panels on a home helps reduce the amount of coal burned and reduces pollution!

Use Less Electricity!

If putting solar panels on your roof isn't a good option, try reducing the amount of electricity that you use daily. Turn off lights when no one is in the room! Open windows and use natural light during the day!

Energy Efficient Appliances!

The next time you have to replace an appliance in your house, keep in mind that some appliances are more efficient than others. More efficient appliances means using next energy, which means burning less coal and less carbon emissions!

Plan Your Day Around the Air Quality!

If it's a bad air quality day. Try to be more conscientious about the choices your making and how they affect the environment. Try a bit harder to make the bus route work, arrange a carpool, or use less electricity in your home!

Air pollution is something that we all have to live with. But, it is also something that we all have the power to influence. If everyone makes little decisions to do their part, we can make a healthier environment for our children and for generations to come. The reduction of Greenhouse Gases will also help mitigate the effects of climate change, which will ensure the clean, prosperous environment that we all want for our families.

Thanks for your time!


“Allergy Landscape.” Tunitas, Tunitas Therapeutics, Inc., 2016, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.

“Childhood Asthma.” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America New England Chapter, 2017, Accesssed 13 Apr. 2017.

"General Questions." Greenbike, Accessed 22 Apr. 2017.

“National Center for Health Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; HHS/Open;, 31 Mar. 2017, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.

Penrod, Emma. “American Lung Association Ranks SLC in Top 10 for Worst Air Quality.” The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 Apr. 2016, as- 6th- worst-in-the, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.

Perera, Elizabeth Martin and Toss Sanford. Climate Change and Your Health. Union of Concerned Scientists, 2011, Print.

“Temperature Inversions.” Youtube, uploaded by UIExtension, 29 Dec. 2014,

35 Years Air of Salt Lake City., 2015, Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.

Utah Department of Health,

“What is Asthma.” Youtube, uploaded by American Lung Association, 31 May 2013,

"Wood Smoke and Your Health." EPA, 16 Dec. 2016, Accessed 22 Apr. 2017.


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