METRO Vancouver is now issuing an Air Quality Advisory for eastern parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of ground-level ozone that are expected to persist for a few days.
This advisory is for ground-level ozone, however there is a noticeable haze in the region which is due to a layer of wildfire smoke over the South Coast from distant wildfires burning in Eurasia and Alaska, as well as a bog fire in Richmond. Wildfire smoke concentrations are not causing particulate matter objectives to be exceeded.
Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air. It is formed when nitrogen oxides (pollutants emitted when fuels are burned) and volatile organic compounds (emitted from solvents) react in the air in the presence of sunlight. The highest levels of ground-level ozone are generally observed between mid-afternoon and early evening on summer days.
Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during mid-afternoon to early evening, when ozone levels are highest. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as lung or heart disease and asthma. If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow the advice of your healthcare provider. As we are in the summer season with warm temperatures, it is also important to stay cool and hydrated. Indoor spaces with air conditioning may offer relief from both heat and air pollution.
This advisory is expected to continue until there is a change in the current weather.
Metro Vancouver works in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fraser Valley Regional District and B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to look after air quality.
Information about real-time air quality readings for Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley communities and potential health impacts can be found at www.airmap.ca and www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/
What is ground-level ozone?
Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air. It is formed when nitrogen oxides (pollutants emitted when fuels are burned) and volatile organic compounds (emitted from solvents) react in the air in the presence of sunlight. The highest levels of ground-level ozone are generally observed between mid-afternoon and early evening on summer days. A brief video explaining how ground-level ozone is formed can be found at player.vimeo.com/video/
Tips to reduce your personal health risk:
- Stay cool and drink plenty of water.
- Use symptom management medications such as inhalers if needed.
- Continue to manage medical conditions such as asthma, chronic respiratory disease and heart failure. If symptoms continue to be bothersome, seek medical attention.
- Maintaining good overall health is a good way to prevent health effects resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.
And especially for persons with chronic underlying medical conditions:
- Stay in cool, air-conditioned environments, especially during the afternoon when ground-level ozone levels are at their highest, and reduce indoor pollution sources such as smoking and vacuuming.
Voluntary emission reduction actions
Reducing air emissions throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley will be beneficial to air quality. Actions people can take:
- Minimize the use of vehicles, and avoid idling your vehicle
- Avoid refuelling with gasoline during the hottest time of day.
- Consider taking transit or carpooling rather than driving to your destination.
- Minimize the use of other gasoline and diesel engines, such as lawn mowers and trimmers.
- Nitrogen oxides are emitted from transportation sources, boilers, building heating systems and other combustion processes.
- Volatile organic compounds commonly arise from burning fossil fuels, solvent evaporation (including paint, varnishes and thinners), fuel refining and storage, fuel refilling, and agricultural activities as well as natural sources such as vegetation.
- Ozone levels are compared to short-term (1-hour) and medium-term (8-hour) objectives. The short-term objective measures the peak/highest concentration and the medium-term objective represents the average over the period of the day when levels are generally elevated.
Under provincial legislation, Metro Vancouver is responsible for monitoring air quality, controlling industrial, commercial and some residential emissions, creating long-term plans, and conducting emission inventories for the Metro Vancouver region.
To help reduce air emissions throughout the Lower Mainland, Metro Vancouver works cooperatively with Fraser Valley Regional District, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Environment and Climate Change Canada and other agencies to develop and implement emission reduction programs for businesses and local residents. Further information about air quality programs in the region can be found on Metro Vancouver’s website.