The Air We Breathe: A Broad Analysis of Utah’s Air Quality and Policy Solutions

Utah Foundation today released a report which analyzes the trends, science, health concerns, and policy solutions related to the two primary pollutants contributing to Utah’s air-pollution issues – ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Over the course of performing the research, two major policy solutions sifted to the top for nearer-term air pollution solutions: 1) new federal automotive and fuel standards and 2) wood smoke reduction efforts. 

Highlights of the report include:

  • Utah has some of the highest levels of short-term air pollution in the United States; Utah’s periodic summer ozone issues are not as dire, although several areas are nearly out of federal compliance.
  • Analysis of the past 15 years of Utah’s air pollution shows no discernible increases or decreases in days with poor air quality.
  • In terms of fine particulate matter reduction, the EPA forecasts that the seven U.S. counties which will benefit the most from proposed Tier 3 automobile and fuel standards are all in Utah: Box Elder, Cache, Weber, Davis, Tooele, Salt Lake and Utah counties.
  • Wood smoke may be a larger contributor to winter air pollution than previously thought, accounting for approximately 10% of Utah’s fine particulate matter on inversion days.
  • In addition to vehicle emission reduction, if there is thing that average Utahns can do to reduce winter pollution it is refrain from burning wood and other solid fuels before and during periods of bad air quality.
  • The Uinta Basin is on the cusp of being out of compliance with federal ozone standards; the Utah Department of Air Quality will likely propose numerous measures in the coming months to clamp down on the biggest emitters.

“Utahns’ interest in air quality seems higher than at any time in recent history,” said Utah Foundation president, Stephen Hershey Kroes. “This year, stories on air quality seem to proliferate across all of Utah’s news outlets. This is heartening for those who want to see air quality improvement and will likely lead to important policy changes in this legislative session.” 

“One year ago, wood smoke was barely on Utah’s radar,” said Shawn Teigen, Utah Foundation’s principal research analyst. “However, it is now being widely discussed as one of the remaining low-hanging fruits in helping cleaning up Utah’s air. Nonetheless, vehicle emissions remain the biggest problem, and clean air is something that all Utahns must work toward – individuals, businesses, and government.”  

The full report is available free to the public at