Wildfires sully air quality

Albertans suffering from lung disease are being cautioned to pay attention to the air quality in their region, especially as more wildfires start to break out across the province.

Albertans suffering from lung disease are being cautioned to pay attention to the air quality in their region, especially as more wildfires start to break out across the province.

“Wildfires emit high levels of particulate matter and other pollutants, which can affect people’s breathing, especially for those who suffer from breathing conditions,” said Beth Nanni, an environmental program specialist with the Lung Association, Alberta and N.W.T.

In fact, all around it’s a bad time for people as well as pets with allergies, thanks to blooming trees and increased amounts of pollen in the air, aided Nanni.

There have been 330 wildfires in Alberta’s forested areas since the beginning of the year, reports Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

Currently, there are 39 burning, 12 of which are new fires started within the last 24 hours.

Forest fire smoke is made up of small particles, vapour and gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and air toxins that can make breathing difficult, said Nanni.

The 600,000 Albertans living with lung disease, which includes chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and lung cancer, are the ones most at risk when it comes to air pollution and this time of year, she added.

According to the lung association, even if the fires are hundreds of kilometres away, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease sufferers could find themselves having difficulty breathing.

Those living in closer proximity to the blazes should stay inside, shut windows, limit exercise and outdoor activities and consider rescheduling any outdoor events, warned the association.

To check the air quality health index and the air quality forecast in a specific region, visit www.airquality.alberta.ca to use an interactive map or call 1-877-247-7333.

The air quality risk in Red Deer on Thursday was low, rating a three on the Air Quality Health Index scale of one to 10.