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Today’s Forecast: Red Alert in Salt Lake, Davis and Utah Counties

Due to expected high levels of ozone today (Friday, July 16th), the Utah Department of Environmental Quality has issued a health advisory for Salt Lake, Davis and Utah Counties:

SALT LAKE / DAVIS Counties: Air Quality Condition: RED Ozone Forecast: Unhealthy Health Advisory: Sensitive people (those with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children) should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors during the mid-morning and afternoon hours.

UTAH County: Air Quality Condition: RED Ozone Forecast: Unhealthy Health Advisory: Sensitive people (those with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children) should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors during the mid-morning and afternoon hours.

In spite of our public officials declaring tomorrow’s ozone levels concerning only to “sensitive” groups,  the current medical literature suggests there is no safe level of ozone exposure, thus we all should take care to minimize our exposure.  The Utah Department of Environmental Quality has a website where you can check hourly for ozone levels on their “current conditions” page. You can also track ozone levels on their “trend charts” page. While, this data is not quality assured, it does give you the bigger picture regarding ozone levels over a 24-hour period: Is it going up? Is it going down? Are we exceeding NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards)?   You can then tailor your outdoor activities to coincide with the lowest ozone levels, which generally are during the early morning and evening (post sunset) when temperatures are also at their coolest. As a rule of thumb, in metropolitan areas when the temperatures creep into the 90’s and beyond you are going to see particularly unhealthy levels of ozone. Tailoring your activities is certainly not the long-term answer to ozone pollution, but in the short-term it is the only choice we have.

Utah Moms for Clean Air highly recommends reducing as much as possible (and without pulling your hair out!) your children’s ozone exposure. Young lungs are still growing and can be permanently damaged from chronic ozone exposure. In essence, significant ozone exposure — even within a day’s time frame — can cause a chemical sunburn akin to the sunburn we get on our skin from the sun. Like our skin, our lungs can also shed damaged cells, but also like our skin, repeated burns, especially bad ones, will result in scarring.

I don’t know about you, but my mother’s intuition says that is clearly not a recipe for my childrens’ optimal health. So when the Department of Environmental Quality issues a red alert (and even yellow alerts), I listen and find activities indoors that still allow exercise, but also limits ozone exposure (ozone, by the way, is the result of a sunlight-driven chemical reaction thus it breaks down very quickly indoors — so the good news is you CAN hide from it!!). A few of our recent activities have included:

  • Ice skating
  • Indoor rock climbing
  • Kickball in a gymnasium
  • Kangeroo zoo (bounce house)
  • Indoor swimming pools

Other great activities to beat the heat and avoid ozone are:

  • Mountain excursions (Alpine Slide is great fun, although a bit pricey)
  • Matinee movies (especially at the dollar theaters)
  • Library and Museum visits
  • Bowling

Whatever you do, do take ozone seriously even if it is an odorless, invisible gas, as there is no way around that fact that ozone is a poisonous, unstable form of oxygen, a powerful oxidizing agent and biologically corrosive — and not something any mother would encourage their child to play with!

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