News / Calgary

Explaining Calgary's air quality advisory

Local company SensorUp says Calgary has spiked in PM 2.5 particles

Smoke rises from trees burned by wildfire on a mountain near Ashcroft, B.C., on Monday, July 10, 2017.

Canadian Press

Smoke rises from trees burned by wildfire on a mountain near Ashcroft, B.C., on Monday, July 10, 2017.

The wildfires burning in British Columbia are affecting air quality as far as Calgary.

Alberta Health Services has issues an air quality advisory for the entire Calgary zone.

Residents in the city are already aware, with reports of tiny particles of ash falling on their lawns and vehicles.

The smoke can cause irritation in the eyes and throat, and cause shortness of breath.

Mount Royal University Nursing professor Joyce Woods warns that kids, seniors and anyone with pre-existing conditions like asthma should stay inside for the next few days, until the warning has been lifted.

In fact, everyone should try to stay inside more, but certain populations are more at risk.

“If you have any of these existing conditions and anything worsens, you do need to seek medical attention,” Woods said. “But trying to avoid things right now is what the general population needs to do.”

According to Calgary company SensorUp, which has about 50 air quality sensors place around the city, what we’re experiencing is a huge amount of PM 2.5 particles.

These are tiny particles that are so light that the air can carry them farther and longer.

Usually, Calgary only has a sensor reading from zero to 10 for PM 2.5 in the air. Over the weekend, that number spiked to more than 100, and on Monday morning it was steady around 111.

“It’s so small, it gets deeper into our lungs,” said Coral Bliss Taylor, solutions expert with SensorUp. “So, it spreads more and effects us more – us and other living things.”

That means keep the pets indoors as much as possible too while the air quality warning is in effect.

To keep yourself as safe as possible, AHS has a few recommendations, including staying indoors and keeping the windows and air circulation fans or vents close.

If you do have to drive, keep the windows up and run your car in re-circulate mode, to avoid drawing in more outside air.

If you work outside, Woods recommends wearing a mask.

AHS said the air quality advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Official, hourly updates are available through http://airquality.alberta.ca, while SensorUp makes their independent data available through http://calgary-air.sensorup.com.

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