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Health, Science & Environment
Keep up with the latest news about wildfires in Utah. If you have tips or questions, contact Lexi Peery at lpeery@kuer.org.

Utah Had The Worst Air In The World Today — Here’s What You Need To Know To Be Safe

A photo of Salt Lake City in a haze of wildfire smoke.
Lexi Peery
/
KUER
Northern Utah is experiencing some of the worst air quality of the summer because of wildfires in other states.

Northern Utah is experiencing some of the worst air quality of the summer because of wildfires in other states, and as of 5 p.m. on Friday, Salt Lake City has the worst air quality in the world.

Wildfire smoke poured into the state Friday morning and health officials are encouraging people to avoid outdoor activities.

“The air pollution is high enough that while children, people who are older, people with underlying heart or lung disease might feel this impact greater, even people without any of those risk factors are at an increased risk of complications with this degree of air pollution,” said Denitza Blagev, an Intermountain Healthcare pulmonary physician.

A cold front shifted the winds from the west blowing eastward, according to the National Weather Service. The smoke is coming from Northern California, including the Dixie Fire, which is now the third largest wildfire in California’s history.

In Utah, there is only one large fire burning in Tooele County. The Morgan Canyon Fire is now 509 acres and 90% contained. Recent monsoonal storms in the region have helped decrease fire activity and some parts of the state are lifting fire restrictions.

Fire officials are urging people to be careful because new starts will be hard to identify because of the air pollution.

The smoke is expected to stick around through the weekend, according to the NWS. It will spread into central and southern Utah Saturday. Blagev said the conditions could lead to long-term health effects for people.

“Periods of high air pollution exposure really increase the risk of pneumonia and bronchitis and viral infections, including COVID,” Blagev said. “Having this degree of air pollution increases our susceptibility to getting COVID. So having that in the middle of the Delta surge is really unfortunate.”

The Salt Lake County Health Department has released tips to stay healthy and improve indoor air quality:

  1. Keep windows and doors closed
  2. Limit use of swamp coolers
  3. Close fresh air intake vent on window AC units
  4. Avoid burning or cooking outside
  5. Consider buying an indoor air purifier
  6. Hold off on indoor house cleaning
  7. Avoid outdoor activities
  8. Use N95 masks to block particulate matter and to slow the spread of COVID-19
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