Waiting for a breath of fresh air

A June 5, 2013 report put out by the B.C. Lung Association (BCLA) raises the alarm on air quality in Northern B.C.

A June 5, 2013 report put out by the B.C. Lung Association (BCLA) raises the alarm on air quality in Northern B.C., particularly in communities where large number of the population live within 500 metres of a highway.

With the Trans-Canada Hwy. passing right through the heart of so many Northern B.C. communities, including Burns Lake, the BCLA warns that these communities must be on guard to minimize exposure to air pollution.

“Traffic emissions are linked to a growing number of acute and chronic health effects,” says Dr. Menn Biagtan, program manager for the BCLA. “Emerging research continues to re-affirm the importance of minimizing our exposure to air pollution yet no particular agency or level of government has the specific responsibility to do anything about it.”

In 2012, the province began a roll-out of new, more accurate air quality monitoring devices.  Not all older stations have been replaced, but where new data is available, two northern communities stand out for their poor air quality.

Vanderhoof and Smithers both recorded fine particulate matter concentrations in the air that were higher than 2012 provincial objectives.

Vanderhoof had the highest level of particulate matter for the province, at 10.9 micrograms of fine particulate pollutant per cubic meter of air. Smithers just missed the podium in fourth place with a reading of 8.9 micrograms of fine particulate pollutant per cubic meter of air.

Although air quality is generally recognized as good throughout the province, the central and north central interior faces  a number of air quality challenges.

According to a 2012 report from the B.C. Air Quality, the main sources of fine particulate matter are open burning (29 per cent), the pulp, paper, and wood industry (27 per cent), residential wood combustion (15 per cent), transportation (11 per cent), other industry (8 per cent), and forest fires (3 per cent).

Burns Lake does not have one of the new monitors in place. Current monitoring stations in the Burns Lake area do not monitor for the fine particulate matter that the new stations detect.