Showing posts from August, 2017

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