The vision of University of Utah’s Program for Air Quality, Health and Society is to become a national leader in understanding and addressing the consequences of air pollution for human health and welfare. We focus on bringing together researchers from across the University of Utah and beyond to be a recognized, credible resource for information concerning air quality; to use the distinctive Utah environment to improve our understanding of air quality on human health and society; and to explore all facets of air pollution, from its generation to health-effects mechanisms in individuals to societal implications and ways to mitigate these effects.  The Program formed in 2013 and has received support from the University of Utah, eBay, UCAIR, the Lawrence T. and Janet T. Dee Foundation, and private donations.

The Program was the brainchild of Robert Paine, Chief of Pulmonary Medicine, and Kerry Kelly, a researcher in Chemical Engineering. Both serve on the State Air Quality Board and saw a need for Utah-centered, air quality research.  Although individual researchers have been studying local air quality, the Program aims to bring together researchers from multiple disciplines in a comprehensive way to better understand and address the state’s air quality challenges.

We are particularly proud of our annual workshops, which have gained interest beyond university researchers.  The January 13th workshop, Air Quality in Utah: Science for Solutions, had more than 200 registrants.  We are also enthusiastic about numerous partnerships that the Program has facilitated, such as the joint work of engineering and health science researchers to develop and deploy low-cost sensors to help understand the effect of our wintertime inversions on individuals with compromised lung function.  In a novel new collaboration, the co-founder, Kerry Kelly received UCAIR support for an air quality video game that was developed in conjunction with the University Department of Entertainment Arts and Engineering.  BadAirDay: Play It Like UCAIR – was released on January 13th.  This new web-based video game for teens introduces them to the factors that create the Wasatch Front’s poor wintertime air quality. It looks and plays like a 3D flying game, but it allows students to test strategies individuals and organizations can take to improve our air and to help them understand how our personal decisions can influence air quality in Utah.

My favorite #ShowUCAIR tip is to avoid burning wood.  Remarkably, one wood burning fireplace is equal to emissions of 90 SUVs.  Research from the University of Utah, DAQ, and EPA identified the importance of wood burning during wintertime inversions.

Kerry Kelly, Associate Director, Program for Air Quality, Health and Society