Fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the tiny particles responsible for hazy air pollution, are detrimental to children’s health even inside the classroom. Mounting evidence has linked chronic exposure with poor academic performance in K-12 students. Until now, no research had examined the impact of “peak” air pollution events, the 24-hour spikes of extremely high PM2.5 levels. For students in Salt Lake County, Utah, these episodes are a dangerous reality — the county’s largest city, Salt Lake City, was among the top 10 most polluted American cities for short-term particle pollution in the latest American Lung Association report.
In a new study, University of Utah researchers found that more frequent peak air pollution exposure was associated with reduced math and English language arts (ELA) test scores for third graders in all primary public schools in Salt Lake County during the 2016-2017 year. The minimum peak pollution levels in this study are below