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Smoky skies, poor air quality linger in Airdrie

Poor air quality and smoky grey skies lingered in Airdrie in recent days, due to wildfires occurring in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Poor air quality and smoky grey skies hung over Airdrie in recent days, due to wildfires occurring in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement for most of Alberta on July 17, after a haze of smoke wafted eastward from B.C., where dozens of wildfires have been burning in recent weeks. Wildfire smoke blowing west from Saskatchewan have also contributed to the poor air quality.

As of July 20, Airdrie and Rocky View County were recording a score of 5 on the Government of Canada’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), after a score of 9 on July 19. A score of 7 to 10 on the AQHI refers to “high risk,” while a score higher than 10 refers to “very high risk.”

“Very high AQHI values are being reported through much of Alberta and are expected to remain high through mid-week in central and northern regions,” the advisory stated on July 19.

“Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease such as asthma are especially at risk.”

While air quality conditions had improved somewhat as of press time, the government encourages residents to continue monitoring alerts and forecasts issued by Environment Canada and to consider taking extra precautions to reduce their exposure to the wildfire smoke.

Tips from Alberta Health Services for when such air quality statements are in effect include closing and locking all outside windows and doors, turning down furnace thermostats and furnace fans, keeping fresh-air intakes closed and filters clean on air-conditioning units, and not using fresh-air ventilation systems that bring in more smoky air from outside.

Other suggestions include reducing levels of physical activity outdoors, not smoking tobacco and not using wood-burning fireplaces or wood stoves.

The advisory from Environment Canada went on to say people with respiratory conditions like asthma can be particularly sensitive to air pollution. According to the advisory, individuals with respiratory issues will generally experience more serious health effects at lower levels.

“Pollution can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits, and hospital visits,” the advisory stated.

Also resultant from the poor conditions, the City of Airdrie and Rocky View County each issued fire bans last week, which are still in effect as of July 20.