British Columbia’s southern Interior currently has the worst air quality across all of Canada.
As of Thursday morning, all 10 spots of IQ Air’s Most Polluted Canadian City Ranking were occupied by cities in BC’s interior.
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At the time of writing, the worst areas were Castlegar, Vernon, the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Kelowna, and Salmon Arm.
The rankings come as wildfires continue to rage across the province. According to the provincial government’s most recent update, there are currently 248 wildfires burning in BC. Of these, 84 are in the Kamloops region and 68 are in the Southeast.
IQ Air bases its rankings on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) air quality index (AQI) in order to “translate pollutant concentrations to a relatable scale for risk to health.”
This scale ranges from 0 to 500, where 0 is considered good air quality, 51 to 100 is moderate, 101 to 150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups, 151 to 200 is unhealthy, 201 to 300 is very unhealthy, and 301 to 500 is hazardous to health.
IQ Air notes that wildfires “release a range of air toxins including particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Among these, fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, is most often present at the riskiest levels to health.”