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Wildfires Surrounding Utah Pollute Air Quality

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Headaches, scratchy throats and sinus problems can be blamed on Utah’s poor air quality. Wildfires surrounding the state are pushing smoke into the valley.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Headaches, scratchy throats and sinus problems can be blamed on Utah’s poor air quality. Wildfires surrounding the state are pushing smoke into the valley.

On a hazy day Thursday, scientists come to one of 26 stations in Utah to check the state’s air quality and it's located right on the grounds of an elementary school. There's a reason for that.

Next to the playground at Salt Lake's Hawthorne Elementary is where machines monitor and measure the junk that's in our air.

The Division of Air Quality picked this location because of its close proximity to those most affected by bad air: kids.

"I hate seeing the kids running around on the school ground out here and grabbing their inhalers,” said Neal Olson, an Environmental Scientist with the Division of Air Quality.

Olson regularly checks levels at the school location, It’s particularly important to him when the fires are raging. “Right now we're seeing a lot of effect from the smoke from the forest fires,” he said.

To show what he means, Olson pulls a piece of film from one of the monitors. It shows several dots which represent recent days. The spots range from light in color to dark: the darker the dot the more pollution in the air. There’s more dark than light spots on the film.

"Think of it as what you're breathing, what's going into your lungs is one of those black spots," he said.

The spots may seem alarming, but Olson said the levels haven't reached unsafe levels yet, and that smog in the sky? He said the sun illuminates the particulates, making it seem worse than it is.

But, that still doesn't make everyone breathe easy.

"I still think I can feel it,” said Lois Wolking, from Salt Lake City. “My eyes burn all the time and I don't feel good, so is that psychological? I don't think so."
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