Winter in Salt Lake City is both spectacular and dismal. Watching clouds part over freshly-dusted mountains always takes my breath away. However, "inversions" thrust Salt Lake City's air quality into the worst-of-the-worst during the winter months. Many people complain about sinus problems, itchy eyes, asthma flare-ups, and low-grade coughs that persist. It's not just pollen or dust; it's the air pollution.
Indeed, the American Lung Association's 2009 "State of the Air" report gave Salt Lake City an "F" in air quality, with our average of 55 "orange" days and 2 "red alert" days each year.According to Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, "Everyone assumes that Salt Lake City must be a clean place, but it's not -- it's counterintuitive." If you're curious, take a look at the grades your region and your city received.
Cities with the highest seasonal spikes in air pollution (namely Pittsburgh, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Birmingham, and Salt Lake City), not surprisingly, see corresponding spikes in emergency room visits for asthma attacks.
What may be surprising, however, is that the ultrafine particles in air pollution cause problems well beyond your lungs. Read more from an ABC News article on how air pollution can damage the heart and blood vessels:
"Studies conducted at the Heart Institute found that ultrafine air pollutants can cause an immediate drop in coronary blood flow and the heart's pumping function, and tend to cause arrhythmias to develop. Researchers have also found increased levels of air pollution are tied to emergency hospital admissions for heart attack, chest pain and congestive heart failure, and even to death from heart disease, arrhythmias, heart failure and cardiac arrest."
My friends, my cats, and I all suffer from the bad air in Salt Lake City. A lot of folks just try to grin and bear it, but I think it's vital to view air pollution as something that requires action. Sure, we can drive less and lobby for clean air standards, but those are long-term solutions.
A rather simple solution that gives us each a lot more control? Adding lots of houseplants - my favorites are the Boston fern and Peace Lily -- as 15-20 houseplants can create clean air inside an 1800 square foot house!
Another tactic is to regularly do internal cleanses to detoxify your cells of pollutants and other toxins. Many people swear by MSM as a nutrient that helps cells purge toxins. I've personally felt better this winter since I added MSM back into my diet. If you're interested in learning more, here's a resource to check out: MSM the Definitive Guide: The Nutritional Breakthrough for Arthritis, Allergies and More
Other people are committed to major annual cleanses (several weeks of eating simply and taking a variety of botanicals and supplements to aid their bodies in releasing stored toxins).
Dr. Rodier and the Hippocrates Health Institute are both big believers in regular saunas to release stored toxins.
I am interested to hear about your experiences. Drop a line below if you have a favorite approach.