Winter in Salt Lake County inevitably brings periods of temperature inversions, leading to poor air quality. When this happens, one of the primary concerns is the health of students who go outside for recess.
In these conditions, schools follow the direction of the Utah Department of Health for when to keep students indoors for recess. The graph found on the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s website shows the points on the PM2.5 index. You can find current PM2.5 levels by visiting air.utah.gov (click “Current”).
The Guidance applies mainly to school districts along the Wasatch Front and Cache Valley areas and suggests:
- When the Particulate Matter (PM2.5) level is between 35.5 and 55.4 µg/m3, “sensitive” students and those experiencing respiratory symptoms should avoid outdoor recess.
- When the PM2.5 level is 55.5 µg/m3 or higher, recess should be moved indoors for all
- 5 levels are determined from the Department of Environmental Quality air monitoring stations at air.utah.gov.
Sensitive students may include those with: asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic lung disease, congenital heart disease, compromised immune systems, or other respiratory problems. Respiratory symptoms may include: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
Parents, with the advice of their health care provider, should inform the school if their child is part of a sensitive group who should have limited outdoor physical activity when air quality is poor.