Smoke is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility in southeast BC – Environment Canada

SPECIAL AIR QUALITY STATEMENT IN EFFECT ISSUED BY ENVIRONMENT CANADA – Smoke is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility. Smoke is expected or occurring…

Smoke from wildfires. Photo from the east shore of Kootenay Lake at the Kootenay Bay Ferry Landing

The Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority, has issued a Smoky Skies Bulletin for Kinbasket, North Columbia, West Columbia, East Columbia, Yoho Park – Kootenay Park, East Kootenay, West Kootenay, Elk Valley, Kootenay Lake, Arrow Lakes – Slocan Lake, Boundary, the Cariboo, Chilcotin, North Thompson, South Thompson, Shuswap, Okanagan, Similkameen, Fraser Canyon and Nicola regions, because of forest fire smoke that is covering the area.

Smoke forecast (Above) – click the photo

Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change.

Avoid strenuous outdoor activities. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider: difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, and sudden onset of cough or irritation of airways. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

a) In most fire seasons, there are occasions when smoke from forest fires is carried into our region.
b) Under these conditions, smoke concentrations may vary dramatically over short periods and over small distances.
c) Those members of the public who are sensitive to the effects of smoke should monitor their symptoms and, if necessary, take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke.
d) During the fire season, a heavy bluish-white haze, possibly accompanied by the smell of smoke, are clear indications that smoke concentrations are higher than usual. The concentrations and air quality health index measured at an air station many kilometres away may not be a good indication of local smoke conditions.

This bulletin will remain in effect until further notice.

Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.

Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties. Find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help. If you open the windows you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, consider going to a public place (library, shopping mall, recreation centre) that is air-conditioned.

For more information on current air quality, see: www.bcairquality.ca.

Visit www.airhealth.ca for information on how to reduce your health risk and your personal contribution to pollution levels, as well as for current and forecast AQHI values.

Please continue to monitor alerts and forecasts issued by Environment Canada.

Issued by Environment Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Environment

Air quality and health could be impacted by smoky skies

Residents in communities across Interior Health affected by fires burning and resulting smoky skies should be aware that smoke conditions and local air quality can change due to the unpredictable nature of fires.

Some individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of smoke from forest fires, such as those with heart or lung conditions. These individuals should watch for any change in symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure. If any symptoms are noted, affected individuals should take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke and if necessary see their physician or local walk-in clinic.

People with severe symptoms should present themselves to the nearest Emergency Department.

Reducing Exposure to Smoke

There are some actions you can take to reduce the health effects of smoke in the air:

  • People with heart or lung conditions may be more sensitive to the effects of smoke and should watch for any change in symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure. If any symptoms are noted, affected individuals should take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke and if necessary see their physician. People with symptoms should go to their health care provider, walk in clinic or emergency department depending on severity of symptoms.
  • Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity – if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Smoke levels may be lower indoors, however levels of smoke particles will still be increased. If you stay indoors, be aware of your symptoms.
  • Consider visiting a location like a shopping mall with cooler filtered air. Keep in mind that staying indoors may help you stay cool and provide some relief from the smoke. However, many air conditioning systems do not filter the air or improve indoor air quality.
  • Reduce indoor pollution sources such as smoking or burning other materials.
  • You may be able to reduce your exposure to smoke by moving to cleaner air. Conditions can vary dramatically by area and elevation.
  • Residents with asthma or other chronic illness should activate their asthma or personal care plan.
  • Pay attention to local air quality reports, air quality may be poor even though smoke may not be visible.
  • Commercially available HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters can further reduce poor indoor air quality near the device.
  • Maintaining good overall health is a good way to prevent health effects resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.

For general information about smoke and your health, contact HealthLink BC available toll free,

24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 8-1-1.

__IHA Communications Team <IHACommunicationsTeam@interiorhealth.ca>

If the public wants to know the Air Quality Health Index for their region, log on to www.bcairquality.ca or call (250) 952-2039.

For fire information, visit www.bcwildfire.ca