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PHOM Indicator Profile Report of Air Quality: Particulate Matter (PM2.5)

Why Is This Important?

PM2.5 can get deep inside the lungs and cause a variety of symptoms, such as painful breathing, chest tightness, headache, and coughing. PM2.5 can exacerbate respiratory infections, trigger asthma attacks and symptoms, and cause temporary reductions in lung capacity. Respiratory symptoms are more likely to occur when PM2.5 levels exceed the EPA standard, but are possible when PM2.5 levels are below the standard, especially in sensitive populations. PM2.5 has been found to be associated with an increased risk of chronic lung disease^2^. In addition to these adverse outcomes, PM2.5 can influence the environment in ways that will eventually affect human health. Fine particles cause haze which reduces visibility. The long-term effects of PM2.5, which settles in the soil, natural water sources, forests, and agricultural areas, are still to be determined. Whether or not climate change has an effect on PM2.5 concentration has yet to be determined. However, as temperatures increase, PM2.5 concentration has been shown to increase in the United States, but this is not the general consensus of the scientific community. Researchers seem to agree that as precipitation increases, PM2.5 levels will decrease since it "clears" the air^3^. If precipitation events are seen to increase with climate change, it is reasonable to conclude that PM2.5 levels may decrease. PM2.5 concentrations could also be affected by air stagnation events (i.e., inversions). If air stagnation events increase in frequency with climate change, PM2.5 levels are likely to rise because these events trap the pollution at the Earth's surface^3^. More research is needed to accurately quantify to what extent PM2.5 levels will be affected by a changing climate.[[br]] [[br]]

PM2.5: Percent of Population Living in Counties Meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, Utah, 2000-2019

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This is a state-level measure that uses county-level annual average PM2.5 concentrations. In any given year, if a county has more than one air quality monitor, then the maximum annual average (among monitors with complete data) is assigned as the annual average for that county. The NAAQS annual standard is designated at 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air; this is the primary standard value^1^. Populations exposed to more than 12 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 are considered to be "exceeding" the NAAQS. Primary air quality standards provide public health protection, including protecting the health of "sensitive" populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly^1^.[[br]] [[br]] ---- # Environmental Protection Agency (2016). National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Retrieved September 10, 2019 from the EPA: [].[[br]] [[br]]

Data Sources

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Air Quality System (AQS)
  • Population Estimates: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) through a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau, IBIS Version 2018

Data Notes

Counties were categorized as either "exceeding," "meeting," or "no monitoring" according to the mean annual PM2.5 concentration. The annual population percentage for each of the three aforementioned categories was derived by summing the total county population in each category, and dividing by the total state population

How Are We Doing?

Several of the most urban counties in Utah have days that do not comply with the PM2.5 standard. This may be due in part to the unique geography and seasonal conditions in Utah. PM2.5 levels increase seasonally in the winter and often due to inversions. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is working to decrease the number of days over the PM2.5 standard.

What Is Being Done?

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is working to decrease PM2.5 emissions to comply with national standards. Because the majority of particulate matter is caused by automobile emissions, DEQ encourages the public to use mass transit and to stay indoors on days with high pollution levels, which you can check at []. In addition, DEQ has studied the effects of high particulate matter levels on children playing outside at recess so that schools may make informed decisions about when to keep children indoors. The DEQ 3-day air quality forecasting program uses a red, yellow, and green stoplight color code to inform the public about how they can help keep pollution levels low. A green day informs the public that pollution levels are low, and they can safely drive and spend time outside. A yellow day suggests citizens consider limiting their driving to reduce pollution levels. A red day strongly encourages the public to reduce driving and other polluting activities to prevent pollution levels from exceeding the health standard. Ultimately, air quality in Utah depends on each individual taking steps to reduce the amount of energy being used and pollution being emitted.

Date Indicator Content Last Updated: 10/20/2020

Other Views

The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 26 July 2021 10:29:49 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Mon, 21 Dec 2020 15:16:08 MST