Showing posts from 2017

Some Progress On Wood Smoke At The Regional District Of Nanaimo

To read the article click here .

Wood stoves are a wide and persistent problem that expose tens of thousands in BC to high levels of risk

Here's a clear picture of how hyperlocal the pollution from wood stove use can be. This is near Duncan BC on Vancouver Island. Note the differences from sensors nearby and the see-saw pattern that reflects perfectly the nature of wood burning. It is also clearly an indoor appliance given the cycling with stoking/reloading the fire.

Real-time air quality monitoring: Why would you want anything less?

Here we go again Kamloops. Wood smoke pollution is starting to build rapidly yet government sensors are slow off the mark once again. Our community and all communities deserve real-time and not averaged and lagged indicators for air pollution. The government hates these low-cost devices because they erode their control over access to information and individuals/alternative interpretations of risk.

A diesel truck example of PM2.5 emissions

Here's what happens when one very dirty diesel delivery truck drives past a PurpleAir sensor. Note the spike and relatively higher level of PM2.5 compared to other sensors in the area. The increase in pollution is still a fraction of what wood burning stoves and fireplaces generate, and the diesel pollution dropped in a few minutes. We still need to work on replacing such polluters since air quality is the biggest environmental health risk of our times. Air pollution is also the main and likely only driver of climate change.

The AQHI downplays exposures from particulate pollution

How much is a human life worth? If you live in rural British Columbia or in resource-based communities like Kamloops you may be surprised to learn that your life is worth far less than someone from Vancouver or Victoria. Recent forest fires in the interior of BC, and the massive amounts of wood smoke produced, demonstrate how risk communication tools like the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) are designed to treat differentially exposures across populations. The AQHI is a scale used in Canada to weigh the relative contribution of three air pollutants; namely, particulate matter in the 2.5 micron range (PM2.5), ground level ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. It normally ranges between 1-10 or from “low” to “very high” health risk but can reach numbers like 49 as was recorded on August 3, 2017, in Kamloops. The formula used for calculating the AQHI is straightforward and it involves using a three-hour average for these pollutants in micrograms/m 3 for PM2.5, and parts-per-billion (

Should industrial polluters be shut down during forest fires?

The following commentary is from Gabriola Island Clean Air Society director Dr. Michael Mehta. Dr. Mehta is a Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Thompson Rivers University and an expert on health and environmental risk issues. In cities like Beijing, when a "red alert" day is called due to high air pollution levels, many restrictions come into effect including a shutdown of industrial operations that may exacerbate the problem. With the extremely high pollution levels in Kamloops over the past month, the following questions arise: To what extent do current industrial operations like those engaged in by the Domtar Pulp Mill contribute to these high levels, and do their operations makes thing worse d uring emergency situations like this? This is a very difficult question to answer completely, and without full access to provincial air quality data I can only make some inferences and educated guesses. Here's what I have seen, and this suggests that

Air quality update as of 10:55PM on July 18

The air quality on Gabriola Island is returning to acceptable levels.

Forest fire smoke finally hits Gabriola Island

Our PurpleAir network of realtime air quality monitors is starting to show the first signs of air pollution from the forest fires in the interior of BC. The air quality can change dramatically and quickly as we saw in Kamloops these past two weeks. Keep an eye on our live sensor map by clicking here .  There is no provincial air quality monitoring on the island so our citizen science initiative through this non-profit is the place to go for information. We can see the trend line going up rapidly this afternoon around 3PM. These are the current sensor readings for a sister network in Kamloops. Anything over 25 micrograms/cubic meter for a 24 hour averaging period is considered unacceptably high.

PurpleAir sensors provide an accurate and local view of air pollution

Over the past two years the Gabriola Island Clean Air Society has worked with community groups and individuals to setup more than 50 low-cost, realtime air quality monitors in BC. These devices m ade by PurpleAir have created a more nuanced and detailed picture of our air sheds, and also have provided much needed empirical evidence to support the claim that wood burning from a variety of sources creates local pollution hot spots that are not being detected by provincial air quality monitoring. The accuracy of these instruments has been questioned by some, in part, because people are often uncomfortable with the results.  Residential wood burning including the use of fireplaces, wood stoves, bon fires, and yard clearing exposes people who live nearby to air pollution risks that are hyper local, and as high (but on an ongoing albeit episodic basis) as forest fire smoke. The forest fires unfolding in the interior of British Columbia this past week provide some important glimpses in

Wood smoke creates victims who have real stories to share

Susy Mallin shares with the Gabriola Island Clean Air Society her story about wood smoke and how it has affected her life. She lives in Port Alberni, BC and this woman is out of options. How does your right to burn trump these concerns? My story is one of a vibrant, creative and full life gone very wrong due to the belief that burning wood is harmless to ones self and others. I myself once lived under this misconception and now realize that no one has the right to inflict the terrible toxic harm that comes from any kind of wood burning. I had always had a fireplace in my home. In the 70’s I lived in the Slocan Valley and burned wood as a heat source. My youngest child was a toddler, and developed bronchitis that became so bad she spent 2-3 months a year for about 3 years in the hospital in an oxygen tent. No one connected my daughter’s illness to the burning of wood in our home, and the concentration of wood smoke in the environment which was created from all

Press release - Wood Smoke is a Serious Health Hazard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wood Smoke is a Serious Health Hazard (April 6, 2017, Vancouver, British Columbia)— Vicki Morell feels like a prisoner in her own home. And she warns that if it happened to her and her family, it can happen to you too.  The misery began 12 years ago when wood smoke from a neighbour’s fireplace began to permeate the Morell family’s home. The smoke gives Morell headaches and causes burning eyes and other health effects. “My wood-burning neighbours have told me that it is their right to burn wood,” said Morell. "But what about my right to breathe fresh clean air in my own home? I don’t understand why the right to burn wood outweighs another’s right to breathe clean air.” Morell used to think that closing windows would keep out the wood smoke, but she soon discovered that she was wrong. Wood smoke particles are far smaller than the width of a human hair — so tiny that, research has shown, the insides of nearby houses can wind up having nearly 80

Heating Your Home With Wood Is More Dangerous Than You Likely Realize

Please consider reading this article/declaration on the risks associated with exposure to wood smoke. It was written by a coalition of scientists, physicians, and others. Unfortunately no local media or even provincial media will touch this topic. Please feel free to share it. Heating Your Home With Wood Is More Dangerous Than You Likely Realize It may be natural, but there’s nothing safe or environmentally sound about heating your home with wood or clearing debris and yard waste in a burn barrel or pile. Many communities around North America and elsewhere are grappling with how best to manage exposure to wood smoke, and to understand more fully the community level and individual impacts associated with this serious and growing environmental health risk issue. Currently 1 in 9 deaths on a global scale are due to air pollution. In Canada, air pollution kills 9 times more people than automobile accidents.  In many rural communities in British Columbia, the main source o