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New Report: Utah Air Quality Worsening

Air quality across the Salt Lake City region has gotten worse on average since last year’s report, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report, which was released today. Salt Lake City experienced more unhealthy air pollution in all three categories that appear in the report: ozone, short-term particle pollution, and annual particle pollution. Salt Lake City ranked among the nation’s most polluted cities for both ozone (10th) and short-term particle pollution (19th), while Logan ranked 17th for most short-term particle pollution. Nationally, the report found that nearly 120 million people, or more than one in three, in the U.S. live in counties that had unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

The Lung Association’s 24th annual “State of the Air” report grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone air pollution, annual particle pollution and short-term spikes in particle pollution over a three-year period. This year’s report covers 2019-2021.

“As this year’s report makes clear, there is much work to be done in Utah and across the country to improve our air quality,” said Nick Torres, advocacy director for the Lung Association. “Even one poor air quality day is one too many for our residents at highest risk, such as children, older adults, those who are pregnant and those living with chronic disease. That’s why we are calling on lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to take action to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe.”

Nationally, the report found that ozone pollution has generally improved across the nation, thanks in large part to the success of the Clean Air Act. However, more work remains to fully clean up harmful pollution, and short-term particle pollution continues to get worse. In addition, some communities bear a greater burden of air pollution. Out of the nearly 120 million people who live in areas with unhealthy air quality, a disproportionate number – more than 64 million (54%) – are people of color. In fact, people of color were 64% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one measure, and 3.7 times as likely to live in a county with failing grades for all three measures. 

Ground-level Ozone Pollution in Utah

Compared to the 2022 report, Salt Lake City experienced more unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, and the city retained its rank as the 10th most polluted city for ozone pollution nationally. Levels shifted slightly in the region as Box Elder, Utah, and Weber counties each saw fewer unhealthy ozone days on average, while Davis and Tooele counties experienced more unhealthy days.

Uintah County and Duchesne County each showed improvements over last year’s report, but still earned Fs.