Poor air quality anticipated for a while over Alberta from wildfires

If you smell smoke, see a haze, it’s time to be more cautious

With wildfire smoke from wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta creating a haze over Central Alberta, Alberta Health Services wants people to use common sense.

Dr. Gerry Predy, senior Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services, said Monday that they anticipate poor air quality over the next while, and they want people to be alert.

“What we’ve seen so far has been I think fairly mild kind of air pollution from the fires, but it does tend to vary a little bit across the province.”

The Air Quality Health Index, which rates health risk on a scale of 1 to 10+, showed Red Deer at 4 for the day, with improvement forecast to 2 by Tuesday Airdrie, Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat were showing the highest numbers, all at 7, on Monday. Most places were either forecast to see a value of 2 or 3 by Tuesday.

Environment Canada issued an special air quality statement for Central Alberta Smoke from wildfires in Kootenay National Park and Central British Columbia.

If the smoke is prolonged, AHS would have more concerns than they have to date but it’s hard to predict, Predy said.

“We just give people a head’s up to just use their common sense. If they do smell smoke and see a haze in the air it’s time to be more cautious.”

“By and large our air quality tends to be pretty good in Alberta. It’s just not like what we see in some other parts of the world like China or even in some big cities in Europe. But I think the one big issue we do see are the forest fires. That’s because we have a lot of trees around us.”

AHS will continue to monitor the situation, he said.

Nina Snyder, Chief Operations Officer for the Lung Association, Alberta NWT branch, said about one in five people in Alberta, (600,000) live with some form of lung disease.

Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are the top two reasons people are admitted to hospital, she said.

Lung disease in Canada is on the increase yet it receives less than four per cent of the national research funding, Snyder said.

She encourages people to always be aware of the Air Quality Health Index and for anyone who has asthma or other lung conditions, make sure that they follow their action plan, they’re on their medication and their asthma is well-controlled.

The challenge during conditions now being experienced in Alberta is often for people who’s asthma is not well-controlled or people experiencing consistent flareups for example, Snyder said.

For more information on wildfires and health go online to albertahealthservices.ca

To view the latest air quality numbers go to Air Quality Health Index.

Closures and wildfire information in the mountain parks can be found at Kootenay and Banff National Parks.

barr@reddeeradvocate.com

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