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Air Quality Health Index Information

 

To check the Purple Air Map for the Air Quality Health Index Just Click HERE

 

THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION

Depending on the length of time you are exposed, your health status, your genetic background, and the concentration of pollutants, air pollution can:

• Make it harder to breathe

• Irritate your eyes, nose and throat

• Worsen chronic diseases such as heart disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma

• Lead to premature death Negative health effects increase as air pollution worsens.

Studies show that even modest increases in air pollution can cause small but measurable increases in emergency room visits, hospital admissions and death

ARE YOU AT RISK?

Every individual reacts differently to air pollution. Children, the elderly and those with heart or lung disease are most sensitive to the health effects of air pollution. People with diabetes are also at greater risk because they are more prone to heart disease. Even Canadians who are relatively fit and healthy can experience symptoms when exercising or working outdoors if pollution levels are higher than usual.

Air pollution has a measurable impact on human health. An analysis of data from Canadian cities shows that 5,900 deaths can be linked to air pollution every year. Air pollution sends thousands more Canadians to hospital each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.3 million deaths worldwide can be attributed to urban outdoor air pollution.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT YOUR HEALTH

We can protect our health from the negative health effects of air pollution by appropriately changing our behavior to reduce our exposure to air pollutants when air quality deteriorates. Checking the Air Quality Health Index regularly is the first step.

The best way to stay safe from the impacts of wildfire smoke or poor air quality is to reduce exposure:

  • Prevent wildfire smoke from entering your home by sealing doors and windows and keep them closed as long as the temperature indoors is comfortable.
  • Spend time indoors, such as shopping malls, community centres and libraries.
  • Take it easy. Refrain from over exertion that causes heavy breathing and inhaling unnecessary smoke.
  • Keep hydrated to help your body deal with inflammation caused by wildfire smoke.
  • Consider wearing a respirator or other types of multi-layered face mask when you go outdoors. For more information on masks & respirators Click Here
  • Learn ways to create an area in your home designated as having cleaner air by using a portable HEPA air filter or other air cleaners (there are even DIY instructions on the BCCDC website)

The BCCDC h Do-It-Yourself Air Cleaner Can be found here Click HERE

WHAT IS THE AIR QUALITY HEALTH INDEX? (AQHI)

The AQHI is usually based on the combined levels of three different air pollutants:

  • Ground-level ozone (O3), (O3 is formed in the air by the reaction of other air pollutants with sunlight. Ground-level O3 is the main pollutant in urban smog.)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), (NO2 is another product of burning fuels. The most important source of NO2 is motor vehicle exhaust)
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5). (Most PM2.5 is created by burning fuels and materials, including forests. Some PM2.5 is formed by chemical reactions in the air)

HOW DOES CHECKING THE AQHI HELP PROTECT YOUR HEALTH?

The index assesses the impact of air pollution on your health, listing a color coded number from 1 to 10+ to indicate the level of immediate health risk associated with local air quality.

The higher the number, the greater the risk—and the greater your need to take precautions.

The index describes the level of health risk associated with these numbers as ‘low’, ‘moderate’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’, accompanied by health advice for the general population and for those at increased risk. In addition to current air quality health information, a forecast is provided for the next day.

USING THE INDEX TO PROTECT YOUR HEALTH

The index is available in many communities across Canada. Look for it with weather forecasts (weather.gc.ca) for your community or go to www.airhealth.ca. The index is also available at www.theweathernetwork.ca. Use the forecasts to plan your activities, whether over the next hour or the next day.

Seniors, children and people with asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease, can use the index to assess the immediate risk air pollution poses to your health and take steps to lessen that risk. Even if you’re relatively healthy, fit and active, you should consult the index to decide when and how much to exercise or work outdoors.

The index can’t perfectly measure the health effects of the air you breathe. Pollen, dust, heat/humidity and odours can affect your health. Always pay attention to what your body is telling and follow your doctor’s advice

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