Why is our provincial government and local health authorities downplaying the risks associated with PM2.5 exposure?
In the August 15, 2018 issue of Kamloops Info News, it was suggested that exposure to PM2.5 from forest fires isn't a big deal and that the kind of air pollution generated by it is somehow less dangerous than exposure to smog found in larger cities.
Although the amount of fine particulates currently in the air is comparable to large metropolitan cities with air quality problems, Ayache says the fine particulates in the Kamloops and the Okanagan are largely a result of the forest fires and don't contain a multitude of toxins you would find in a smog filled city. (B.C. Ministry of Environment air quality meteorologist Tarek Ayache).
This is complete and utter nonsense. PM2.5 from combustion of biomass (forest fires, wood stoves, biomass-based energy systems etc) contains hundreds of toxic chemicals that are bound to the surface of particulates. Many of these are highly carcinogenic and create acute responses including heart attacks and strokes. They have also been found to be more than 12 times carcinogenic than cigarette smoke. Forest fires also release gases including carbon monoxide in massive quantities and the ash that settles creates toxicity in lakes and other drinking water supplies.
This is all part of a systematic campaign to downplay the risk of forest fires and other sources of wood smoke.
Last year they tried to discredit the PurpleAir and SensorUp networks but were shown that they are indeed accurate. Now the campaign seems to be to use physicians to talk about the lack of increase in hospital admissions during the forest fire season, and to redefine the nature of PM2.5. Hundreds of studies from around the world show that PM2.5 is the most dangerous component of air pollution at such concentrations. For more information, see the excellent work of Doctors and Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution.