August 6, 2014 2:56 pm

Air quality advisory issued for the Okanagan

OKANAGAN — For the second time this summer, the Okanagan has been placed under a Smoky Skies Advisory.

Interior Health and the Ministry of Environment issued the advisory Wednesday morning for the Okanagan, Similkameen, Shuwap, Thompson, Nicola and Boundary areas because of forest fire smoke.

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According to air quality meteorologist, Ralph Adams, multiple fires burning west of Quesnel are pushing smoke into the Shuswap region and wildfire smoke from the blazes in Washington state is shifting into the Okanagan.

“Under these conditions, smoke concentrations may vary dramatically over short periods and over small distances,” according to the Ministry of Environment advisory.

“Those members of the public who are sensitive to the effects of smoke should monitor their symptoms and, if necessary, take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke.”

Tips to reduce your personal health risk: 
- People with heart or lung conditions may be more sensitive to the effects of smoke and should watch for any change in symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure. If any symptoms are noted, affected individuals should take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke and if necessary see their physician. People with symptoms should go to their health care provider, walk in clinic or emergency department depending on severity of symptoms.
- Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity – if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
- Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
- Smoke levels may be lower indoors, however levels of smoke particles will still be increased. If you stay indoors, be aware of your symptoms.
-Consider visiting a location like a shopping mall with cooler filtered air. Keep in mind that staying indoors may help you stay cool and provide some relief from the smoke, however many air conditioning systems do not filter the air or improve indoor air quality.
- Reduce indoor pollution sources such as smoking or burning other materials.
- You may be able to reduce your exposure to smoke by moving to cleaner air. Conditions can vary dramatically by area and elevation.
- Residents with asthma or other chronic illness should activate their asthma or personal care plan.
- Pay attention to local air quality reports, air quality may be poor even though smoke may not be visible.
- Visit http://www.interiorhealth.ca, click on the Your Environment tab at the top of the page, then Emergency Information → Forest Fire, and under the “During” tab, scroll to Your health and living with smoky skies.
(Courtesy: Ministry of Environment / Interior Health)

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