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Staying Healthy When the Air Turns Red

Salt Lake Valley

One of the most widely recommended actions to protect your health when the air quality takes a turn for the worse is to limit your outdoor activities.

Sensitive groups (children, seniors and people with heart and lung conditions) are recommended to reduce their outdoor activities when PM2.5 pollution levels reach 35.5 µg/m3. This winter those days have been frequent. Everyone receives the same recommendation when PM2.5 reaches 55.5 µg/m3. View current conditions.

The truth is that it is up to you when to decide to limit and avoid outdoor activities. But knowledge is very important, and we want to make sure you have the right tools to make this decision.

One of the latest blog posts on the U.S. EPA’s Greenversations blog pays special attention to the health effects of particulate matter (PM) pollution. In honor of Heart Health Month, EPA’s toxicologists are shining a light on the sound scientific proof that PM can impact heart health, particularly for those with existing cardiovascular disease (these people fall into the “sensitive groups” category).

Here is an excerpt:

“As EPA scientists, we make sure the most recent and scientifically sound research is used to protect the public’s health from the harmful effects of air pollution. Over the last 20 years, thousands of scientific studies have reported that breathing in fine PM can lead to harmful effects on the heart, blood, and blood vessels. These studies show that exposure to PM can cause premature death, strokes, heart attacks, and cardiac arrest for people who are already at risk.” Read more.

So, how can residents stay active when the air quality goes south? One solution is to escape the valley for the clean air (and often warmer temperatures and sunny skies) of the mountains. Another is to be active indoors.


Salt Lake City Sports Complex (courtesy of Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation)

In a recent decision, the Salt Lake County Council is making it easier for residents to maintain their healthy exercise routine when the air quality turns poor by offering reduced rec center fees on bad pollution days.

Effective immediately, on days deemed “unhealthy” by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, rec center fees at the nearly 20 facilities across the county will be discounted from $4.50 to $2.25. Find the rec center nearest you.

One last plea: consider taking public transportation or carpooling when you head to your nearest center to get some exercise!

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