As more than 200 wildfires rage in British Columbia, experts warn citizens to brace themselves for wildfire smoke and poor air quality. Air quality advisories have already been issued for much of B.C.’s southern interior, and the province’s fire risk is extremely high. According to Naomi Zimmerman, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia, citizens should not wait for an air quality alert to begin preparing for smoky skies.
“During wildfire periods, we can observe particulate matter concentrations… ranging from over 50 to hundreds of micrograms per cubic meter, whereas, on a normal day in Vancouver, we could see fewer than 10 micrograms per cubic meter,” she explained. “It’s a substantial increase.”
According to Zimmerman, poor air quality and smoky situations are especially dangerous for vulnerable groups. Pregnant women, the elderly, small children, and persons with pre-existing disorders such as asthma or other respiratory illnesses are also at risk.
“It’s not probable that you’ll perceive it as an acute health impact,” she said. “It’s more than continuous exposure to these smoke events puts you at a higher risk of having some of these illnesses [like asthma].”