Wildfire smoke triggers poor air quality alert in Edmonton, northern Alberta

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Wildfire smoke is causing poor air quality and reduced visibility in the Edmonton area and across northern Alberta, which prompted a special air quality statement to be issued Wednesday evening.

The joint alert was sent out just before 5 p.m. by Environment Canada, Alberta Environment and Parks, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services.

Wildfire smoke concentrations can fluctuate over short distances and vary considerably from hour to hour, it said. As of 5:30 p.m in Edmonton, it was at a seven on the air quality health index (AQHI.)

The air quality was expected to drop to a four in Edmonton by Friday.

Alberta Health measures the AQHI on a scale of 1 to 10, with higher numbers representing greater health risk.

Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations.

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People with lung disease such as asthma, or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke.

Click to play video: 'The effects of wildfire smoke on your health'
The effects of wildfire smoke on your health

Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath.

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People are advised to take actions to protect their health and reduce exposure to smoke, such as staying indoors.

If you must spend time outdoors, officials say a well-fitted respirator type mask (such as a NIOSH certified N95 or equivalent respirator) that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and face, can help reduce your exposure to the fine particles in smoke.

“These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health. However, respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases in wildfire smoke. It is important to listen to your body and reduce or stop activities if you are experiencing symptoms,” the government bulletin said.

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Stop outdoor activities and contact your health-care provider if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing, including asthma attacks, severe cough, dizziness or chest pains. Stay inside if you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms.

For up-to-date information on the air quality across the province, visit Alberta Health’s website.

Click to play video: 'Effects of smoke on your physical and mental wellbeing'
Effects of smoke on your physical and mental wellbeing

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