We are mid-summer which usually means sunshine and gorgeous weather! But the hot and dry weather can also cause concern for dry ground, wildfires and air quality. With smoke and particles in the air from the ongoing BC wildfires, air quality is becoming an increasing concern throughout the province this year. Hot air and vehicle emissions are also contributing to poor quality air. The emissions combined with sunlight in hot and dry weather can cause ground level ozone. Ground level ozone is a highly irritating gas which is known to have adverse effects on human health. It is important to be aware of the air quality in your area as poor air quality can have both immediate and long term respiratory affects. Air pollution can also cause lung and other diseases. The Lung Association states that 7 million people die each year in the world from air pollution. Air quality data can be reviewed by region or by using the governments interactive map.
The Air Quality Heath Index provides hourly readings on the air quality including particle matter, ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide. It is a colour scale of 1 to 10 or higher illustrating the level of health risk as low, moderate, high or very high. It also provides advice on minimizing the health risk from air pollution. The Air Quality Health Index is available to 80% of the BC population throughout Metro Vancouver, the Lower Fraser Valley, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Vernon, Victoria and the South Okanagan.
When combined pollutant concentrations reach certain limits, an air quality advisory may be issued. An advisory may also be issued when degraded air quality is expected to continue. Air quality can be monitored on the Government of BC website for air quality or the Government of Canada website.
When an advisory is issued it is recommended to reduce or avoid strenuous outdoor activities. This is especially important for children, elderly and people with heart or respiratory issues.
Currently there are air quality advisories for the Cariboo, Prince George, and Bulkley Valley Lakes Districts due to ongoing wildfires in the immediate area. There are also air quality advisories in effect for the Southern Interior, Kootenays , Valemount and the surrounding area.