Winter in Salt Lake City is both spectacular and dismal. Watching clouds part over freshly-dusted mountains always takes my breath away. However, "inversions" thrust Salt Lake City's air quality into the worst-of-the-worst during the winter months. Many people complain about sinus problems, itchy eyes, asthma flare-ups, and low-grade coughs that persist. It's not just pollen or dust; it's the air pollution.
Indeed, the American Lung Association's 2009 "State of the Air" report gave Salt Lake City an "F" in air quality, with our average of 55 "orange" days and 2 "red alert" days each year.According to Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, "Everyone assumes that Salt Lake City must be a clean place, but it's not -- it's counterintuitive." If you're curious, take a look at the grades your region and your city received.
Cities with the highest seasonal spikes in air pollution (namely Pittsburgh, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Birmingham, and Salt Lake City), not surprisingly, see corresponding spikes in emergency room visits for asthma attacks.
"Studies conducted at the Heart Institute found that ultrafine air pollutants can cause an immediate drop in coronary blood flow and the heart's pumping function, and tend to cause arrhythmias to develop. Researchers have also found increased levels of air pollution are tied to emergency hospital admissions for heart attack, chest pain and congestive heart failure, and even to death from heart disease, arrhythmias, heart failure and cardiac arrest."
My friends, my cats, and I all suffer from the bad air in Salt Lake City. A lot of folks just try to grin and bear it, but I think it's vital to view air pollution as something that requires action. Sure, we can drive less and lobby for clean air standards, but those are long-term solutions.
A rather simple solution that gives us each a lot more control? Adding lots of houseplants - my favorites are the Boston fern and Peace Lily -- as 15-20 houseplants can create clean air inside an 1800 square foot house!