"Special air quality" advisory remains over Metro Vancouver due to smoke

Sep 9 2020, 8:45 am

A special air quality statement remains in effect over Metro Vancouver after wildfire smoke from Washington State made its way into British Columbia.

According to Environment Canada, the advisory is in place for the following areas:

  • Metro Vancouver – NE
  • Metro Vancouver – NW
  • Metro Vancouver – SE
  • Metro Vancouver – SW

“Long-range transport of wildfire smoke from the United States has impacted air quality levels throughout much of southern BC,” says the weather agency.

Particularly, Vancouver Island, the coastal mainland, the Okanagan, and the Kootenays are being affected by the smoke.

“People with pre-existing health conditions, respiratory infections such as COVID-19, older adults, pregnant women and infants, children, and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure,” says Environment Canada.

Anyone that may be more affected by wildfire smoke is advised to reduce their time spent outdoors.

Precautions for those affected include the following:

  • Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you feel
    unwell.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
  • If you have asthma or other chronic illnesses, carry any rescue (fast-acting) medications with you at all times and activate your personal care plan that has been
    designed with your family physician.
  • Make sure that children and others who cannot care for themselves follow the
    same advice.

Monitor your symptoms

  • People respond differently to smoke. Mild irritation and discomfort are common,
    and usually disappear when the smoke clears.
  • Exposure to wildfire smoke and the virus that causes COVID-19 can both result
    in respiratory symptoms such as a dry cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing.
    Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to help determine whether you need
    further assessment or testing for COVID-19.
  • If you are unsure whether you need medical care, call HealthLink BC at 811.
  • If you are experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or a severe
    cough, contact your health care provider, walk-in clinic, or emergency department.
    If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

Reduce smoke exposure

  • Smoke levels may be lower indoors but will still be elevated, so stay aware of your
    symptoms even when you are indoors.
  • Running a commercially available HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can
    improve indoor air quality in the room where the device is located.
  • If you have a forced air heating/cooling system in your home, it may help to change
    the filter and set the fan to run continuously.
  • Reduce indoor air pollution sources such as smoking, burning incense, and frying
    foods.
  • If travelling in a car with air conditioning, keep the windows up and the ventilation
    set to recirculate.
  • If you are very sensitive to smoke, consider moving to another location with cleaner
    air, but be aware that conditions can change rapidly.
  • Maintaining good overall health is a good way to prevent health effects resulting
    from short-term exposure to air pollution.

Environment Canada also notes that “smoke conditions can change quickly over short distances and can vary considerably hour-by-hour.”

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