Category: Air Quality

Google Street View vehicles now collecting air quality data in Salt Lake Valley

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Before you can effectively come up with ways to try and tackle our air pollution issues, it helps to have solid data regarding where it is.

And that’s where Google comes in.

Starting Tuesday, two Google Street View cars will be pulling double duty. They are now equipped with high-tech air quality sensors in addition to the street-by-street mapping cameras.

This is the brainchild of the University of Utah’s Atmospheric Science Department and Google.

The company now essentially picks up the tab for what would be a very expensive endeavor.

These two vehicles will be out eight hours a day, five days a week for the next eight months to gather mapping and air pollution data throughout the Salt Lake Valley.

Professor John Lin, University of Utah Atmospheric Science Department, said the initiative will deliver specialized data.

“I think what we will try to understand with these measurements is how air pollution differs in different parts of the city—at almost neighborhood scales,” he said.

Lin said the data will help inform public policy when it comes to air quality.

“Our role as scientists and researchers is to deliver the information to the public and stakeholders and policymakers,” he said. “We’re not in the business of trying to prescribe policy.”

This is also quite unique, with Salt Lake City being one of only a handful of cities in the world now equipped with this street-by-street pollution data  gathering technology.

The others are Oakland, Houston and London.

This will be going on for basically the rest of this year. After that, the scientist will gather the info and pass it on to local leaders and hopefully give them the ability to take the steps needed to improve the air we all breathe.

State of the Air report indicates increase in unhealthy ozone days in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The annual State of the Air report from the American Lung Association shows an increase in unhealthy ozone days in Utah.

The report indicates the Salt Lake-Provo-Orem metropolitan area is the 14th worst in the country, falling four spots from last year’s rankings.

That area received “F” ratings for ozone and daily particle pollution. Ozone forms when we burn gas, oil or coal.

But the report wasn’t all bad for the Beehive State. St. George ranked fourth in terms of cleanest US cities for year-round particle pollution.

The full State of the Air report for Utah is available online, here. 

Study: Childhood cancer survivors a ‘sensitive group’ on bad air days

SALT LAKE CITY — We call them “sensitive groups” every time the particulate levels start to spike during winter inversion in Utah’s populated valleys.

They include children, adults and elderly people with respiratory conditions.

Now a new study from the Huntsman Cancer Institute provides powerful evidence of another group that needs to be on the list: survivors of cancer who were diagnosed as children.

Dr. Judy Ou, an epidemiologist working at HCI was the primary author of the study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

“I did not expect to see the results that we were able to show in the paper we published,” said Ou.

Ou’s research looked and more than 3,800 survivors of childhood cancer whose information was available in the “Utah Population Database,” and found twice the expected occurrence of emergency department visits for respiratory issues among the population of survivors, with an especially high rate for those whose cancer treatment includes chemotherapy.

Dr. Douglas Fair, a Pediatric Oncologist, says the research is important, especially as medicine has allowed far more patients to survive.

“In the 1960’s the cure rate for childhood cancer was less than 50 percent, and fortunately with advances in medicine and science it’s somewhere close to 83 percent now,” said Fair.

The study of air pollution focused specifically on emergency visits when particulate pollution known as PM 2.5 was elevated.

Surprisingly to Ou, the study also showed cancer survivors reporting respiratory issues when particulate levels had not reached the common threshold that signals a health warning for “sensitive groups.”