The wildfires to the south are continuing to create challenging air quality conditions. Smoke is again sitting over the city, and was quite thick during the morning hours.
Meteorologist at UNBC, Dr. Peter Jackson, says we have had several weeks of bad air quality this summer. “I have been here since the mid-90s and this is by far one of the worst summers we have had for air quality. Both with the high levels we have had and also the length of time we have had the forest fire smoke.”
Paula Tait, the Health & Resource Development Technical Advisor (Air) for Northern Health, says particulate matter from smoke and other sources is a full-body pollutant, and the most well established effects are related to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases (such as lung cancer and heart attacks). She says Northern Health saw increases in asthma-related health visits that coincided with the smokier days.
Brother Michael is the Chair or the SOB’s (Short of Breath) COPD Support Group. He has been living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease for decades. Michael says this summer has been particularly challenging. “It has impacted me by sort of encasing me in my home and not being allowed to get out. Yard work is now — I have to wait for a clearer day, and then it’s sort of limited the amount of time I can get out and do yard work. This summer is sort of like being a prisoner in your own home, and all the windows are all sealed up.”
About 40 people living with COPD are part of the support group held once a week at AiMHi. Michael is hoping for a change, and soon. “Of course this is a historical event where never before have we seen this type of issue with smoke fires. It is terrible. The impacts will be long lasting.”
Jackson says a ridge of High Pressure is keeping smoke over the city, but a new weather system will move in and should clear things out later this week. Moving into the fall, Jackson expects an improvement in air quality. “In this part of the world, we tend to get overnight fog and high humidity and the longer nights. So all of those factors should both lower the fire risk as we get into fall and winter, and thereby also improve the smoke from the fires.”