The health risk in Red Deer is very high due to the air quality, according to the Government of Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

The health risk in Red Deer is very high due to the air quality, according to the Government of Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Health risk ‘very high’ in Red Deer due to air quality

The Government of Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index forecasts a “high risk” for Red Deerians due to the wildfire smoke on Sunday.

The AQHI is a tool that relates the air quality outside to your health, using a scale from 1 to 10. The lower the number, the lower the risk.

As of 4 p.m., Red Deer was sitting at a four, but the forecasted maximum through the day remains at 10+, which is the highest rating on the index.

Some outdoor facilities and amenities are temporarily closed, the City of Red Deer announced Sunday morning. This included the outdoor pool, spray parks, sports fields and picnic shelters.

“Facilities will reopen once air quality no longer poses a health risk for strenuous outdoor activities,” the city said on Twitter.

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The current smokey conditions have been difficult to deal with for some central Albertans.

Red Deer’s Jennifer Hovila, 50, said she feels better when she’s able to stay indoors.

“In this kind of environment I usually stay inside. In fact I was supposed to go kayaking at the lake today, but there was talk about how smoke was going to be a problem today, so I decided it wasn’t worth coming back and feeling horrible,” said Hovila.

“The smoke irritates my eyes every day when I wake up and builds up to a point where my nose starts to run a little bit and sometimes I’ll get phlegm in my throat.”

The Red Deer resident works at the hospital, “in the laboratory,” where the smoke can become an issue as well.

“We have a high rate of air exchange because we work with chemicals. It actually brings in more of this smokey air,” she said.

Hovila said she hopes the air quality begins to clear up soon.

“It’s sad this seems to be something that’s reoccurring every summer. We have a time during the year that forest fires get really abundant and then we have the smoke wafting into Alberta for a month or so,” she said.

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Red Deer Advocate readers responded to a Facebook post, asking how the smoke was impacting them. Some commenters said they were experiencing sore eyes and a sore throat. Other symptoms that commenters mentioned included headaches, runny noses, a lack of energy and struggles breathing.

“I stayed home for months due to COVID, now I’m staying in due to smoke as I have respiratory issues. When the smoke is gone the (COVID) variant will be taking over. Is there no end to this isolation,” said one commenter.

The Parkland Airshed Management Zone, a non-profit group that monitors air quality in central Alberta, said residents should protect themselves by limiting exposure and adjusting outdoor activity during episodes of increased air pollution.

“Parkland Airshed Management Zone recommends residents of the region be mindful of their own emissions during this sensitive time: limit wood burning, choose transportation alternatives to single-occupant vehicles like public transit and carpooling, reduce unnecessary vehicle idling, and use less electricity and natural gas,” a statement said Sunday.

For more information on air quality, visit airquality.alberta.ca/map.



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