British Columbians are now able to sign up for public health notifications advising people of potential or existing poor air quality in their communities.
People can enter their email on the Government of British Columbia’s air quality website to automatically receive air quality advisories and smoky skies bulletins. Both serve to alert the public about existing or potential poor air quality, while providing appropriate health advice and protective actions that can be taken.
“All British Columbians need and deserve clean air, and we also deserve to know right away when there are pollutants in the air that may affect our health or well-being,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in a news release. “I urge people, especially those with pre-existing health conditions or who are more vulnerable, to sign up for these notifications so they can stay healthy and take preventative measures if needed.”
There are currently 76 community-specific sites that provide hourly data to a central database where they are processed, stored and posted near real-time on the B.C. air quality website.
Air quality advisories are issued for individual communities and usually result from local activities occurring within or near that community. Examples of local pollutant sources include vehicle emissions, industrial emissions, residential wood burning and road dust. Advisories are sent when measurements of an air pollutant in a community exceeds its short-term provincial air quality objective.
“Poor air quality poses health risks to people with chronic conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and it can particularly affect the elderly, pregnant women, infants and small children,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “The new auto-alert function will allow easy access to the level of risk in your area, so you can take steps to protect your health and the health of your family.”
Smoky skies bulletins are specific to wildfire smoke, which can occur over large distances and change quickly. These bulletins are issued when areas of the province are being impacted or have reasonable potential to be impacted by wildfire smoke within 24 to 48 hours.
“Air quality can change very quickly during wildfire season in British Columbia,” said Sarah Henderson, senior environmental health scientist at the BC Centre for Disease Control. “Wildfire smoke can affect anyone who breathes it, especially people with asthma or other respiratory conditions. Knowing when a smoky skies bulletin has been issued for your area can give you and your family more time to get ready.”
The subscription service is expected to also be available through text starting next year.
To subscribe to receive advisories, visit: https://aqss.nrs.gov.bc.ca/subscription.html