Nightly News   |  January 25, 2013

Air pollution plagues Salt Lake City

A toxic layer of smog is hovering over Salt Lake City, Utah, triggering serious health problems and prompting doctors to declare a state of emergency. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> prettiest spots in the country, the problem is dirty air. and lots of it. they're used to it, this kind of thing happens every year. but this year, it's the worst anyone there can remember, making life anywhere outside the home downright dangerous. nbc's miguel almaguer has our report tonight from salt lake city .

>> reporter: this is the nation's dirtiest air.

>> we have i think a real health crisis on our hands.

>> reporter: it's what more than a million in the salt lake city area are breathing.

>> it gets pretty nasty and this is the nastiest i've ever seen it.

>> can't breathe.

>> reporter: the smog is choking. pregnant women and the elderly told stay inside.

>> i hope that door and it hits me and it gets hard to breathe.

>> reporter: there was hope a winter storm would clear the air, but it made matters worse. hundreds of pile-ups, the airport shut down for hours. ksl meteorologist grant buyman blames it on the inversion.

>> in the winter, you get the area above that acts as a trap and keeps everything where it's at. pollution and haze builds up in the valleys.

>> reporter: what people are breathe in the valley is a combination of carbon monoxide and soot. the air so bad here, it's up to four times more toxic than what's considered safe.

>> have you had a fever?

>> reporter: for a region already battling the flu, ers are seeing a dramatic rise in patients with breathing problems . doctors warn, bad air could lead to heart attacks and strokes.

>> what we are exposed to now is come parable to forcing all men's of the community to become active smokers.

>> reporter: to fight pollution, authorities could lower the speed limit and are considering free mass transit to get cars off the road. now they could even restrict the sale of aerosols. typically known for its great outdoors, residents and visitors alike have had enough.

>> it's like a utopian city. we just love it. and this is a huge, huge drawback. almost enough to consider relocating.

>> we're visiting from new york city . the air quality here is just disgusting. it's nothing like i've ever seen in new york. so it's kind of shocking.

>> blue skies will return. but for now, the view from here isn't what anyone wants to see. miguel almaguer, nbc news, salt lake city .