Utah's Success

Tracking Data Inform Elementary School Recess Guidance Updates

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Students at Risk from Outdoor Air Pollution

During the winter, very fine particles of pollution known as PM2.5 is a problem in Utah. PM2.5 is concerning because its small size allows the particles to get into the deep part of your lungs and even into your blood, which can cause health problems. Sensitive groups who should take precautions during days with high PM2.5 levels include people with heart or lung diseases, older adults, children, and infants. To address the safety of children in schools, the state uses the Utah Recess Guidancepdf iconexternal icon, a set of recommendations for when elementary school students should stay indoors for recess based on current air quality. In 2016, state health agencies, parents, school representatives, advocacy groups, and national partner organizations voted to update the guidance to be more protective of all children, especially sensitive students.

Tracking Data Inform Recess Guidance Updates

Attendees of the 2016 Utah Air Quality and Health Summit, including Utah Tracking Program staff, voted to update the Recess Guidance to align with the Environmental Protection Agency Air Quality Index Recommendations. Utah Tracking provided air quality data from their Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (UT Tracking Network) and conducted demonstrations of their data portal website to the Utah Asthma Program (UAP). UAP and their partners used Tracking data to create video content and social media messaging to explain the updated guidance and steps schools can take to implement the program. With Tracking’s help, the updated Recess Guidance and accompanying messages were then distributed to principals, school administrators, and parents across the state of Utah.

Schools Better Equipped to Keep Students Healthy

With the work of the UT Tracking Program and their partners, clearer, simpler messaging about the Utah Recess Guidance empowers educators and school administrators with valuable information about when to keep students inside for recess. Knowing when to keep children indoors during poor air quality days can prevent acute and chronic illness, and ultimately keeps students healthy.

Lowering exposure to arsenic from private well water

What is the problem?

Some Millard County residents use private wells for cooking and drinking water. The Health Hazard Assessment team of the Utah Department of Health confirmed that in the Delta Conservation Districts, many of the private wells had arsenic concentrations high enough to be an urgent public health hazard.

What did Tracking do?

The Health Hazard Assessment team used drinking water data from the Utah Tracking Network to assess health effects in residents of Millard County caused by drinking arsenic- contaminated water from private wells.

Improved public health

Due to the high levels of arsenic found in this study, the Health Hazard Assessment team recommended that well water in this area not be used for drinking or cooking. They also suggested that residents of the area purchase and install water systems to reduce arsenic exposure in the community. Arsenic levels in water will be monitored until amounts are at levels that are not harmful to human health.


Addressing a cancer cluster concern

Middle-aged woman in hospital bed comforted by nurse

What is the problem?

A cancer cluster disease specialist (epidemiologist) with Utah’s Tracking Program received an inquiry from a concerned resident about a possible cancer cluster in her neighborhood. The resident requested a study of the rate of female thyroid cancer in the past ten years in Tooele County. She named the Energy Solutions landfill as a possible source of environmental radiation exposure.

What did Tracking do?

The cancer cluster epidemiologist compared rates of thyroid cancer in the area to statewide rates, over five year periods. The epidemiologist used the secure Utah Tracking Network’s data as well as the Rapid Inquiry Facility (RIF), a mapping and analysis tool used by the Tracking Program.

Improved public health

The epidemiologist analyzed the data from the tracking program and did not find enough evidence to prove that a thyroid cancer cluster exists among women ages 20-54 in Wasatch, Tooele, and Box Elder counties. Utah’s Tracking Network helped the epidemiologist provide a much quicker response to citizens’ concerns than was previously possible.


Reducing exposure to lead

Fertile soil with emerging plants

What is the problem?

The Eureka Valley was heavily mined from the 1870s to 1965. Several large mine waste rock piles are located on the south side of the town of Eureka, close to homes and businesses. Mining activity and housing construction spread mine waste throughout the town. The mine waste exposed many residents to lead from the Eureka Mills Superfund site.

What did Tracking do?

Blood lead data available in the Utah Tracking Network showed highly elevated blood lead levels in children in Eureka. Soil sampling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality also showed elevated levels of lead in soil in this community. These data resulted in an emergency cleanup of the area.

Improved public health

During the cleanup period, the Health Hazard Assessment team (HHA) and the Blood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program conducted free quarterly blood lead testing and provided education to the community. Since cleanup began, fewer children have shown signs of elevated blood lead levels. Now blood lead testing frequency has been reduced from every three months to once a year. The Utah Tracking Program with the Central Utah Public Health Department, Utah Department of Health, and the HHA team will continue blood lead testing for children living in Eureka until 2013.


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Page last reviewed: March 9, 2018