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Air quality advisory for Lower Mainland to remain until weather shifts

‘Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations,’ says warning
Air quality health index shows ‘very high’ levels of small particulate levels, causing poor air quality mainly in the Eastern Fraser Valley as of Aug. 21, 2023 (Province of BC)

The red sun is now a recognizable sign of degraded air quality across the region.

Metro Vancouver announced Monday (Aug. 21) it was continuing its air quality advisory for the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley areas.

The warning will be in effect until further notice, basically until a change in the weather.

Smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as winds, temperatures, and wildfire behaviour change, but the air quality health index remained a “very high” risk, at a 10 or 11, in the Eastern Fraser Valley, while areas to the west fared better.

Issued initially on Saturday (Aug. 19) for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, the advisory came as irritating smoke from wildfires arrived in the region, with some areas reaching ‘very high’ levels of pollutants.

“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations. Everyone can take action to reduce their exposure to wildfire smoke.”

The fine particulate matter is primarily due to smoke from wildfires blazing across B.C. and impacts those with lung, heart conditions and other health conditions. The smoke-filled plumes of degraded air quality is bringing red suns at sunrise and sunset, and blotting out mountain views.

The notice on Saturday promptly sent those with breathing issues, and other health conditions indoors for the weekend, and cancelled in-air events like Flight Fest, the free Chilliwack air show.

People with lung disease like asthma, COPD or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke.

People respond differently to smoke. Mild irritation and discomfort are common, and usually disappear when the smoke clears. Drinking lots of water can help your body cope with the smoke. If you have an HVAC system in your home, use the highest rated MERV filter for your system (ideally rated 13 or higher) and set the fan to recirculate air constantly. You can also use a portable High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air cleaner. Here’s more advice: Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable.

Advisory in effect for:

Metro Vancouver – Northwest

Metro Vancouver – Southwest

Metro Vancouver – Northeast

Metro Vancouver – Southeast

Central Fraser Valley

Eastern Fraser Valley​​

RELATED: Advisory went out Saturday

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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