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KUER News and RadioWest are bringing you a series of stories and conversations on Utah's air. It's easy to look at the haze on a red air quality day and say that something needs to be done about it. But what? We'll be talking about the roles that individuals, industry and government can play in cleaning up Utah's air quality. We'll also look at what the costs may to be to our economy and our health if we don't.

Utah's Summer Smog Season Gets Underway

Driving less is one way Utahns can help protect the air from smog buildups on summer afternoons. Utahns often overlook the danger ozone pollution poses on their health.
Driving less is one way Utahns can help protect the air from smog buildups on summer afternoons. Utahns often overlook the danger ozone pollution poses on their health.
Driving less is one way Utahns can help protect the air from smog buildups on summer afternoons. Utahns often overlook the danger ozone pollution poses on their health.
Credit Utah Department of Transportation
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Driving less is one way Utahns can help protect the air from smog buildups on summer afternoons. Utahns often overlook the danger ozone pollution poses on their health.

Utah’s smog season is underway. Some call it Utah’s overlooked pollution problem.

Michelle Hofmann, a pediatrician and founder of the health advocacy group Breathe Utah, is used to hearing people complain about sooty pollution in the winter. But she says it’s harder for patients to grasp the impacts of ground-level ozone pollution, since it’s odorless and colorless.

“Immediately when you breathe it, it is potentially injurious to the lungs,” she says. “It has been likened to causing a sunburn on the lungs. They feel like it might be extreme heat that’s causing their chest tightness or difficulty breathing. It probably is some of that, but it is probably also ozone air pollution.”

Utah’s summer pollution season officially started on Thursday. The Utah Division of Air Quality has a smartphone app to track current ozone levels and a 3-day forecast. D-A-Q’s web page also has up-to-the-hour information and a daily email advisory. In addition, the Utah Health Department has a pollution-symptom tracker.

Hofmann says that helps people anticipate the times when ozone pollution is likely to become a problem for them.

“Really getting in tune with what the current levels will help individuals decide whether they are sensitive and at what level they are sensitive,” she says. “We have a current air-quality standard – a national standard of 75 parts per billion – and that may not be sufficiently protective of everyone.”

Hofmann advises doing intense outdoor activities before lunch and after dinner. Air-quality officials point out that people can also spare the air of needless pollution. One way is to drive less.

The DAQ is warning ozone will be building up over the weekend.

Copyright 2014 KUER 90.1

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Judy Fahys is KUER's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.