Inversion may spark health concerns for students

For many Weber State University students gearing up for winter, it’s time to consider spending more time inside. With the temperatures dropping and the inversion setting in, many asthmatic students, as well as others, are limiting the time they spend outdoors. The inversion is nothing new to Utah residents, but many citizens may not be aware of just how poor the air quality on the Wasatch Front is.

Last year in January, reported that Salt Lake City had the worst air quality in the entire nation. Not only was SLC the worst, but the Top 5 worst cities were all in Northern Utah. This year is promising to be no different, according to the Utah Department of Air Quality website, which states that pollution levels have been low so far, but the coming months are notorious for poor air quality. Some students have expressed concerns about the effects that the inversion can have on their daily activities.

“I know that the inversion deals with the air quality but I’m not quite sure how it works,” said Keiley Bradshaw, a WSU junior. “I am worried about it affecting my breathing though. I am training for a half marathon, and I don’t want the air quality to hold me back.”

According to the EPA, inversions are caused by warm air flowing on top of the cold air in valleys such as the Wasatch Front. The warm air is lighter than the cold air and traps the pollution in the cold front and can only be removed by strong horizontal winds. This means that all of the pollution created by cars, factories, buildings, and homes is stuck in the air instead of being pushed higher into the atmosphere.

“It’s awful having to breathe in all of the crap that is put into the air during the winter,” said Natalie Richey, a WSU sophomore. “I don’t have asthma or anything, so I can’t imagine how those people who do put up with it.”

The Utah DAQ website has many tools that can be used to limit the exposure citizens have to polluted air, as well as guidelines for managing symptoms that can accompany exposure. They have a website in place that updates every hour with the temperature and PM 2.5 levels. PM 2.5 is the term used to measure the amount of particulate matter in the air at any given time.

The guide suggests that anytime PM 2.5 goes over 35, particularly air sensitive citizens should consider staying indoors as much as possible. When PM 2.5 reaches 55, those who are air sensitive or experiencing coughing or shortness of breath should remain indoors. When the PM 2.5 reaches 90 or above, everyone should stay inside as much as possible. When wrote the article last year, the PM 2.5 was 142.

“Last year was awful with the air,” said Ashley Ulrich, a WSU senior. “I could barely see anything in the distance so I can’t even imagine the awful things I was breathing in. I hope that this year things will be better.”

While many share the hopes for a better year, the Utah DAQ suggests that those concerned about suffering from symptoms use the worksheet on their website to track symptoms and find out what level of pollution each individual is most sensitive to. They also suggest discussing symptoms and concerns with a doctor.

For more information on the current air quality or how to track symptoms, students can visit the Utah DAQ website at