The air in Utah County may put your health at risk according to a new study released by the American Lung Association.

On Wednesday the association released its latest state of the air quality grades nationwide and the study found Utah County's air, while not as bad as Salt Lake County, is a threat to residents' general health.

The report gave Utah County an "F" for particle pollution. The study found that from 2009 to 2011 Utah County averaged 25 days that the association deemed unhealthy for sensitive populations -- children, active adults and those with respiratory disease -- and seven days where the air was unhealthy enough that all residents should limit their activities outside.

While the data shows there is work to do to improve the air quality it also shows the air is better than it has been in the past. In 2004, 17 days were found to be unhealthy; this year's report shows the county averages 12 days of unhealthy air levels.

"That is a sizable improvement," said Glenn Lanham, executive director at the American Lung Association in Utah.

Despite the improvement Lanham said more can be done to clear the air. Lanham noted that "the work is never done" to improve air quality and make the valley a safer place to live. He said it would take more than the state Legislature passing laws to improve air quality or businesses making major efforts to reduce the pollution they release into the air. He said for the county's air to improve it will take a collective effort from all of its residents.

"Everyone needs to step back and say 'what can I do?' " Lanham said.

Steve Alder, director of the Utah County Bureau of Air Quality, said county residents can improve the air by doing small things such as not idling their cars for extensive amounts of time and by regularly maintaining small engine machines on lawn mowers and snow blowers. Alder explained that while it may seem like such a small thing to do the little things can make a impact on improving the air if everyone participates.

Alder also encouraged people to carpool and combine trips when they can to eliminate extra time in the car. He also encouraged people to not drive at all on days when the air quality is poor. Alder said the county is focusing on cracking down on those who violate wood burning restrictions to help improve the air. The county also has established a hotline for people to call to report cars that might be polluting more than their fair share into the air. The hotline is (801) 851-7608.

Lanham said this year's failing grade in air quality does not include the winter most recently completed. The grade comes as a three-year annual weighted average and the data from the last year's inversion filled winter will be included in future reports. The full air quality report can be found at

-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can follow him on Twitter at: @billyhesterman
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