For Immediate Release
Utah Doctors Speak Out on Current Air Quality
(Dec. 13, 2017 – Salt Lake City, UT) – The Board of Directors of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) is urging the public to stay indoors as much as possible during this long spell of worsening air in the Wasatch Front. Board Member and pulmonologist, Dr. Robert Paine said, “These intense spikes, even if they are brief, have their own health consequences, some of which can be life altering and permanent. Acute particulate pollution episodes such as these are responsible for increased rates of heart attacks, sudden death, asthma attacks and pneumonia, in addition to multiple effects in other body systems.”
The medical research has long since debunked the idea that levels of pollution this high are only unhealthy for sensitive groups. According to Dr. Brian Moench, UPHE Founder and Board President, “This recurring refrain contributes to the dismissive attitude of many, especially some legislators, because most people are not in those sensitive groups. This helps people write off the issue because they believe it is someone else’s health risk, but not theirs. Medical research tells us very clearly that even air pollution at very low levels still compromises personal and public health. This effect is magnified in the face of high levels of particulate pollution such as we are now experiencing.” He adds, “We should be honest with the public. Some people will die from these levels of air pollution, from heart attacks, strokes, abnormal heart rhythms, pneumonia, miscarriages, birth defects and stillbirths.”
UPHE Executive Director, Denni Cawley said “We ask schools to keep children indoors. The new recess guidance by the Utah Asthma Program specifies when ALL children should be indoors. Given what we know of how levels of pollution below EPA standards can already damage our bodies’ systems, we would advocate for stricter standards. A UNICEF working paper released in November 2017 highlights the body of research that shows air pollution’s negative impact on the developing brain of children.”
UPHE is also concerned about direction that the current U.S. administration and legislators is taking in policies that affect our environment and ultimately our families’ health. Air pollution on the Wasatch Front is a recurring, genuine health crises, and the direction of the federal government will only make it worse. The recently passed House and Senate tax bills contain alarming alterations of the tax structure that will paralyze clean energy investments and solidify dependency on dirty energy. Opening public lands to extractive industries and lessening these companies’ taxes will only add to the air pollution throughout Utah.
UPHE Board Member and emergency room doctor, Howie Garber, MD reiterates that “Numerous studies show that heart attacks and strokes increase on the same day as pollution spikes, some even within a matter of hours.”
UPHE encourages the community to do its part in following mandatory action or no-burn days, not idle their cars, and plan their trips to reduce cold starts in vehicles. Here are other tips:
– If you have to drive, keep your car on recirculate
– Stay indoors as much as possible
– Absolutely do not exercise outside
– Vacuum out floor registers
– Keep HEPA filter running day and night
– Asthmatics should closely monitor peak flow
– Avoid idling your cars, especially at drive thru locations during red air days (fast food restaurants, holiday light shows)
In early January, UPHE will release its annual End of the Year Report on Air Pollution and Health Research. Parents, families, communities are asked to speak out to our leaders on how important clean air is for their health.
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment was formed in 2007 during one of Utah’s worse inversions. The organization consists of approximately 400 medical professionals within Utah, and another 4,000 supporting members of the public. UPHE is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the citizens of Utah by promoting science- based health education and interventions that result in progressive and measurable improvements to the environment. UPHE can be found at www.uphe.org or on Facebook.