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University of Utah study: 200 people get pneumonia every year because of inversions

SALT LAKE CITY — Recent storms have cleared out much of Utah’s air pollution, just as new research from the University of Utah suggests Utah’s smoggy winter air is causing an increase in pneumonia cases.

Utah was last hit hard by inversions about a week ago. It’s the same kind of air that U of U Pulmonary Doctor, Cheryl Pirozzi, said puts people over the age of 65 at serious risk of pneumonia. During those “red air” days she said this demographic is two-and-a-half times more likely to contract pneumonia, two-and-a-half times more likes to be hospitalized for the illness, and three times more likely to die in the hospital from pneumonia.

“We need to take it seriously,” Pirozzi said. “The air that you and I, and my patients, and my children breathe every day is causing this.”

Pirozzi and her colleagues studied the health records for four thousand Utahns, noting that cases of respiratory illness spiked one day after inversions were reported. She said she sees these increases every year, but never realized how extreme they were until this study.

She said the most frustrating part of their research, they learned if Utah could only keep it’s air healthy- or in the “green air” category- she said we’d avoid about 200 pneumonia hospitalizations every year.

Read the full study here.