Recent Study Finds Correlation Between Pneumonia And Inversions Along Wasatch Front

Feb 6, 2018

The study finds poor air quality not only affects our environment, but also our health. Researchers University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare report a correlation between high incidents of pneumonia and winter inversions along the Wasatch Front. 

The number of individuals sent to the emergency room every year because of pollutant-caused pneumonia climb as high as 200 in the state of Utah.

“So first of all, there is a lot of research out there showing that air pollution increases the risk for many serious and potentially deadly diseases, so pneumonia is just one of many.

"But some examples would be exacerbation of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and asthma and other lung diseases and cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and overall mortality as well,” said Dr. Cheryl Pirozzi, a pulmonolgoist and assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Utah Health.

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs and can be bacterial or viral. Dr. Pirozzi says that while it’s very common, it can be potentially very serious for at-risk populations.

A patient receives medical attention. As many as 200 individuals are sent to the Emergency Room every year due to pollutant-caused pneumonia.
Credit 59th Medical Ward / United States Air Force

“All people and especially more vulnerable people who are at higher risk, that would be older adults and people with heart and lung diseases and young children should do what they can to protect themselves from exposure to air pollution. That can mean reducing exposure by avoiding activity outside” Pirozzi said.

The seasonal effect of pollutants is something that needs to be addressed says Dr. Pirozzi. The report indicates that doing so would keep many individuals out of the hospital as well as save the state up to 1.6 million in health costs every year.

“As a community we should do everything we can to reduce air pollution in our area.. that would include driving less, using more fuel-efficient vehicles, making public transportation more available and using it and reducing industry emissions, especially during the inversions,” Pirozzi said.

During the 2018 Utah Legislative Session, a bill sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent seeks to reduce some of Utah’s emissions by testing diesel vehicles in Utah County.

Details on House Bill 101: Air Quality Emissions Testing can be found here. 

Details of the health study: Short-Term Air Pollution and Incident Pneumonia can be found here.