People sometimes take a laid-back approach to air pollution and often underestimate how both short term and long term exposures add up to health risks that can be serious. Heart attacks and strokes are much more common during high pollution days (and immediately afterwards), and particulate matter at the 2.5 micron scale (PM2.5) can accumulate in our blood stream and move into various organ systems causing damage from oxidative stress, inflammation, and other processes.
With forest fires and ambient air pollution generated from non-point sources, there's sometimes a perception that nothing can be done to minimize exposure and that we should just get on with things. We sometimes hear comments like, "There's nothing we can do about it."
The most important and successful way to reduce exposure to forest fire smoke is to stay indoors as much as possible, close windows, and to use air purifiers with HEPA 5-stage filtration.
Here is some data from today on the effectivenes…
Forest fire activity in the Province of British Columbia and elsewhere during the Summer of 2018 has once again raised concerns about air quality and human health impacts. Although the Summer of 2017 had longer and more intense wood smoke pollution events in communities like Kamloops then this year, this Summer has seen larger spikes in pollution. For a comparison of the two summers and for a discussion on the implications of multiple years of smoke exposure, click here.
On August 23, 2018, smoke in the City of Kamloops returned with a vengeance.
The provincial air monitoring station at the Federal Building in downtown Kamloops recorded a one hour average for PM2.5 of 231.1 micrograms/m3 at 10PM.
Our PurpleAir network showed almost exactly the same levels across the "swarm" of low-cost sensors setup in the city. To learn more about how this technology compares to expensive government monitoring stations, click here. Additional examples comparing the network to satellite mode…
For those who question the value and accuracy of low cost particle sensors made by PurpleAir and other companies, consider this evidence. Here we have PM2.5 satellite predictive modelling from the Copernicusopen access database of surface PM2.5 for North America (note the hot spots likely from forest fires). When we compare a map of real-time sensors from PurpleAir it should be immediately apparent that they agree with the satellite models in general ways.
If you need more specific proof, the satellite estimate is giving a current surface PM2.5 reading of 33 micrograms/m3 and the PurpleAir sensors on Gabriola Island are bang on!
What's puzzling and somewhat disturbing is the inaccuracy of the air quality monitors used by the BC Ministry of Environment. Compare what their PM2.5 levels are at 15 micrograms/m3 in nearby Nanaimo to what the Copernicus satellite indicates at 39 micrograms/m3. This holds even when one takes into consideration the realtime versus one hour averaging peri…