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Vancouver’s smoky haze is dragging down the scenery, and you. Here’s how

Smoky air from wildfires getting you down?
If the stubborn haze hanging over Metro Vancouver from forest fires is getting you down, there are both physical and psychological reasons for it. Linda Aylesworth explains.

You’re not alone if you’ve felt a little down since a smoky haze obscured the sky over Vancouver this week.

An air quality advisory was issued for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley again this week due to smoke from wildfires that are burning in the Interior and in Washington state.

Coverage of B.C. wildfires on Globalnews.ca:

The advisory has come due to heavy concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that are expected to stick around until the weather changes, according to Metro Vancouver.

The effects of PM2.5 on the lungs are well known: they’ve been known to cause coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

But these particles don’t just penetrate the lungs. They also enter your blood, triggering an immune response like when you have a cold.

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READ MORE: Air quality advisory issued again for Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley due to smoke from wildfires

And they don’t even stop there, said Chris Carlsten, a respirologist with Vancouver General Hospital and the University of British Columbia.

“Some of these particles are small enough that they can actually get into the brain, they can lead to what’s called neuro-inflammation, or inflammation in the brain,” he said.

“The evidence is really mounting for that.”

Smoke covers the skies of Vancouver, Canada on August 04, 2017 due to wildfires in different parts of the country.
Smoke covers the skies of Vancouver, Canada on August 04, 2017 due to wildfires in different parts of the country. Newzulu via CP

Neuro-inflammation can affect both your mood and your cognitive abilities.

But the smoky haze can also affect you because of its obscuring effects; not being able to see the sky or the trees can make a difference, Carlsten said.

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“Green and blue for example are positive colours that are associated across a range of positive health effects,” he told Global News.

“Not being able to see those could decrease our mood, make us feel worse.”

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But what’s there to do about the haze?

Not much, except reduce the effects of climate change, or don’t go outside.

The weather may bring some relief for Vancouverites, however.

There’s a 40-per-cent chance of showers on Friday and a 60-per-cent chance of rain on Saturday, according to Environment Canada.

  • With files from Amy Judd