Air Quality Advisory

August 13, 2018

Metro Vancouver is issuing an Air Quality Advisory for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter due to wildfire smoke from fires burning throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Smoke concentrations can vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as fire behaviour changes.  On Saturday clean marine air swept through our region resulting in a clearing of the smoke from last week. As we transitioned to the next weather pattern the winds changed to a northwest flow and by late evening on Sunday (yesterday) smoke was measured throughout the region. Elevated levels of fine particulate matter are expected to persist until there is a change in fire and/or weather conditions. 

Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted.  Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.  If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow the advice of your healthcare provider.  As we are in the summer season with warm temperatures, it is also important to stay cool and hydrated.  Indoor spaces with air conditioning may offer relief from both heat and air pollution.  

Information about real-time air quality readings for Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley communities and potential health impacts can be found at www.airmap.ca and http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/bcairquality/readings/find-stations-map.html.

Background

What is fine particulate matter?
Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (μm) or  less.  PM2.5 can easily penetrate indoors because of its small size. PM2.5 concentrations tend to be highest around busy roads, industrial operations, major ports as well as areas with residential wood burning.

Tips to reduce your personal health risk

  • Avoid roads with heavy vehicle traffic and areas with wood smoke.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of water.
  • Continue to manage medical conditions such as asthma, chronic respiratory disease and heart failure. If symptoms continue to be bothersome, seek medical attention.
  • Maintaining good overall health is a good way to reduce health risks resulting from shortterm exposure to air pollution.

And especially for persons with chronic underlying medical conditions:

  • Stay in a cool, air-conditioned environment and reduce indoor sources of pollution such as smoking and vacuuming.
  • Run an air cleaner. Some room air cleaners, such as HEPA filters, can help reduce indoor particulate levels provided they are the right size for your home and filters are changed regularly.
  • Consider taking shelter in air-conditioned buildings which have large indoor volumes and limited entry of outdoor air.

Voluntary emission reduction actions

Reducing sources of fine particulates throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley will be beneficial to air quality. Actions people can take:

  • Minimize the use of diesel powered equipment.
  • Consider taking transit or carpooling rather than driving to your destination.
  • Follow local regulations for recreational fires. Avoid lighting a fire where possible.

For more information, contact:
Metro Vancouver Air Quality
Email: Metro Vancouver Information Centre 
Tel: 604-432-6200