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About Us

The Gabriola Island Clean Air Society is a legally incorporated non-profit society registered in the Province of British Columbia, Canada. Our email address is To see our live PurpleAir sensor network click here . Our purposes are: To promote protection of the air shed on Gabriola Island and Vancouver Island region from smoke and other airborne pollutants. To work with other organizations including local, provincial and federal governments to improve air quality by identifying current, emerging and future threats that may compromise public health and/or the environment. To work with organizations and governments to reduce risk from outdoor burning practices, wood smoke from wood burning appliances, and to help develop voluntary initiatives, bylaws, and enforcement recommendations. To perform educational and outreach functions to increase understanding of these threats to air sheds. To explore and develop

A personal story about dealing with wood smoke

  After 14 years of fighting air pollution locally generated by neighbours from their wood stoves, fire pits, fireplaces, and open burning, we have sold and moved away from our community on Gabriola Island, British Columbia.   It was the most difficult decision of our lives, and a seemingly impossible one. Choosing between your health and home isn’t fair.   After writing dozens of letters to various levels of government on this issue, presenting to councils, setting up a pollution monitoring network using PurpleAir technology, presenting academic work at conferences, being interviewed more than 50 times by media on the topic, working with a group of wonderful, like-minded people to create a non-profit called the Gabriola Island Clean Air Society, and joining the Board of an international group called Doctors and Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution, I am exhausted.   We lost many friends over this battle, incurred significant financial costs, were taunted and shunned, attacked merci

Health impacts of air pollution in Canada, 2021 report

Summary A large body of scientific evidence has accumulated over the past 25 years attributing a wide range of adverse health effects to ambient (outdoor) air pollution exposure. These effects range in severity from respiratory symptoms to the development of disease and premature death. Significant advances in the health and atmospheric sciences over the last two decades have also made it possible to estimate the number of deaths and illnesses associated with air pollution. In Canada and internationally, health impact assessments identify air pollution as one of the largest risk factors for premature death and disability. In this report, air pollution is defined as pollutants that scientific studies have associated with wide-ranging health effects and to which the population is ubiquitously exposed in the outdoor environment. These pollutants include fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 ), ground-level ozone, and nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ). This is an update to previous health impacts of air

Learn more about woodsmoke and alternatives to burning wood

Here's an interview with Dr. Michael Mehta on local radio in Nelson, B.C., on woodsmoke from an environmental and human health perspective. His part starts at approximately 30 minutes in.

Your fireplace and wood stove are major drivers of deforestation

If you burn wood to heat your home, you may not realize how many trees are consumed every year by this choice. It's often difficult to see this since most of us have wood delivered in trucks loaded with smaller and sometimes split pieces. On Gabriola Island, our consumption of wood is the equivalent of 545 logging trucks/year of trees, and this consumes 55 Ha (136 acres) of mature forest every year. Much of this wood is imported from woodlots on Vancouver Island. If parked end-to-end, these 545 trucks (21.5m in length) would be 11.75 km long - almost the length of the island. Here's the math and the hyperlinked references to support these calculations. Forests in B.C. are relatively productive compared to other parts of the world.  A Ha of mature forest yields on average 400 cubic meters of wood.   Not all of this wood can be used as firewood but we'll use this number since data on actual amounts of usable wood are difficult to come by. A lower number of usable quantities m

The burning question: How to tackle air pollution and health threats from wood stoves?

Gabriola Island Clean Air Society board member, Dr. Michael Mehta, is quoted in this article in the National Observer on wood stoves. He states: "If the stereotype associated with country living holds fast, folks in Canada’s small towns and rural communities should be relishing the benefits of fresh, clean air. But rather the opposite is true, said Michael Mehta, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. The full article is here .

Outdoor Wood Boilers (OWB) Are More Than A Nuisance

From time-to-time, the Gabriola Island Clean Air Society receives emails from across Canada from people who are desperate for help. Their local and provincial governments have failed them. Recently, an individual from Cold Lake, Alberta, reached out to us. He and his family live in a residential neighbourhood where people commonly use wood stoves, burn bon fires, and even use outdoor wood boilers (OWB) for heating. Here's a photo of his neighbour's OWB in operation. Properties in this community are on one acre lots - so this is close to his house. According to the individual who connected with us: "The volume of smoke from this OWB, is dozens of times greater than a traditional in-home wood stove. And, the OWB never shuts off. When it is not in active ‘plume mode,’ it smoulders and produces a constant stream of acrid, creosote-smelling smoke, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has wood delivered at the start of each winter, by a logging

PurpleAir sensor readings are virtually indistinguishable from government monitors according to new peer reviewed study

In August of 2016, the Gabriola Island Clear Air Society brought online the first PurpleAir sensor network in Canada. Our sensor network has documented extensively the staggering amount of air pollution coming from wood stoves and fireplaces on our tiny island. As the number of PurpleAir sensors expanded across the province and elsewhere in Canada, many began to raise questions about the accuracy of these low-cost devices. There have been several studies to-date that all show the same thing: these devices work, are accurate, reliable, and fill in gaps in air quality monitoring. The newest study from Australia by Dr. Dorothy Robinson provides definitive evidence that should quash any concerns about using PurpleAir sensors. See the study here .  Gabriola Island Clean Air Society director Dr. Michael Mehta has the following to say about this study. This paper provides empirical evidence to show that the use of low-cost PM2.5 monitors for measuring air quality on a distributed basis has me