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Fireworks boosted weekend pollution in Utah

Published July 5, 2011 10:28 pm

Air quality • July Fourth celebration causes spike but levels still acceptable.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Elaine Emmi is one of those people who don't look forward to Utah's fireworks holidays.

This weekend, for instance, she and other pollution-sensitive Utahns locked themselves indoors as smoke from Independence Day pyrotechnics built up in the air, as it usually does in the aftermath of the fireworks.

"It's not fun having to hide out. It's not how I want to live," Emmi said. "The Fourth of July for me is an indoor holiday."

According to the monitors maintained by the Utah Division of Air Quality, it was probably a good idea.

Bryce Bird, director of Utah's Air Quality Division, said exploding fireworks pumped lots of soot and dust into the skies, but pollution — PM 2.5 and PM 10 — never reached daily levels considered unhealthy under the Clean Air Act at any of the state's six key monitoring sites, he said.

"Air pollution is an issue for everybody," he said, noting that vulnerable populations — the old, the young and people with heart and lung disease — are most at risk.

Bird pointed out that neighborhood fireworks also might have generated pockets of fine-particle pollution that triggered health impacts for some, including asthma attacks, raspy throats and stinging eyes.

State air-quality monitors showed:

• PM 2.5 spiked Monday at nearly 10 times normal levels in Salt Lake County.

• PM 2.5 was about 15 times higher than normal Saturday, the day of the Stadium of Fire celebration.

Meanwhile, another type of air pollution, ground-level ozone, built up on Saturday thanks to the heat and sunshine. In Salt Lake and Tooele counties, ozone reached what is considered unhealthy levels on Saturday afternoon.

That prompted air-quality officials to issue a "red" forecast for Sunday afternoon. But a cover of clouds prevented ozone levels from building again, and the odorless, colorless pollution failed to build to worrisome levels as expected.

For Emmi, a member of Utah Interfaith Power and Light, an environmental and energy advocacy group, keeping out of any type of pollution has become a fact of life during Utah's periodic bad-air spikes.

Those conditions aggravate her respiratory problems. They force her to shut the windows tight and turn on an air purifier. If she were to venture out, the smoke would sting her eyes, and her nose, throat and lungs would burn.

"If your lungs are diminished," she said, "you feel [the pollution] much, much more."

fahys@sltrib.com —

Learn more about pollution near you

To see what pollution levels were like over the weekend — or any day — in your county, check the pollution-forecast Web page: www.airquality.utah.gov/aqp/slc.html. By clicking the "trends" button, you can track levels of various pollutants in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Cache, Box Elder, Utah, Tooele and Washington counties.




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