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Inversion leads to air quality crisis in Salt Lake City

Air Quality News from IQAir, the world leader in air purifiers.

When the outdoor air is polluted, one of the safest places to be is indoors, especially where the indoor air is being cleaned by an IQAir high-performance air purifier. That has certainly been the case recently in Salt Lake City, where a polluted mass of air has been stagnating over Utah’s largest urban center.

Air inversion over Salt Lake City, aerial view.

The bad air in Salt Lake City is the result of a cold-weather “inversion”that led a group of Utah doctors last week to call for a public emergency due to air pollution. The weather is being called “the mother of all inversions.” It was caused by pollution from the growing urban activity in and around Salt Lake City – situated in a valley with mountain ranges to both the east and the west – combined with a cold air mass that moved in early in January. The cold air was trapped in place by warmer air hovering above. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Salt Lake City’s air in January was the dirtiest in the nation. While EPA considers anything above 35 micrograms of fine pollution  (PM2.5) per cubic meter unhealthy, levels in Salt Lake City reached as high as 130 in January.

In response to the inversion, more than 100 doctors delivered a letter calling on the governor of Utah to declare a public emergency. Much of their concern was focused on pregnant women. “Some women who are pregnant right now are going to miscarry … and a few more babies are going to be born prematurely,” Dr. Kurtly Jones said in a news report. Another major concern during an inversion is asthma. Research published in 2010 by the Utah Department of Health reported an increase in emergency department visits related to asthma when winter inversions occur.

Physicians generally agree that an air purifier can help reduce asthma symptoms. Many IQAir owners report their asthma symptoms have lessened or even disappeared since they began using an IQAir system at home (or in the office). Leading health organizations such as the American Lung Association recommend the safe, effective mechanical air filtration technology used by IQAir, and they warn buyers to stay away from ozone-generating and ionizing air purifiers that can make the air even worse. Also, IQAir’s air filtration technology is proven to be the most effective against tiny ultrafine particles that represent more than 90 percent of all air pollution.

Because the primary component of air pollution in cold-air inversions is particulate matter, IQAir recommends its New Edition HealthPro room air purifiers for control of air pollution related to inversions. The HyperHEPA filtration system in the HealthPro series is tested and certified to filter 99.5% of all particles down to 0.003 microns – the smallest particles that exist. For homeowners with central HVAC systems, IQAir recommends the IQAir Perfect 16, which cleans all of the air in a home continuously and automatically.

The inversion over Salt Lake City is expected to ease in the coming days, but health and environmental experts warn that inversion conditions are likely to reoccur in February. The dirty air is expected to return along with the plunging temperatures. And Salt Lake City is not the only city prone to temperature inversions that cause dangerous spikes in particle air pollution. Other cities include Bakersfield, Fresno, Hanford and Los Angeles, Calif., and Pittsburgh, Penn. In fact, a weather inversion last October over Pittsburgh set off carbon monoxide alarms in buildings throughout the city.

This online publication is brought to you by IQAir North America, Inc., based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. IQAir North America is a member of the Swiss-based IQAir Group that develops, manufactures and markets innovative air purifiers and air quality products for indoor environments around the globe. IQAir is the exclusive educational partner of the American Lung Association for the air purifier industry.

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