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Rogers Media

Vancouver’s air quality worst of any ‘major city’ in world due wildfire smoke, heat

Vancouver has the worst air quality of any major city in the world Friday evening, in large part due to hundreds of wildfires burning in B.C.'s Interior and neighbouring Washington state.  

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Vancouver has the worst air quality of any major city in the world Friday evening, in large part due to hundreds of wildfires burning in B.C.’s Interior and neighbouring Washington state.

At one point the Air Quality Index rating for the city climbed to 256, pushing it into the “very unhealthy” range which means  “the risk of health effects is increased for everyone.” Overall, the numbers hovered around 200, which is in the “unhealthy” range which means “some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”

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Advisories remain in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, with the regional district urging people — particularly those with underlying respiratory conditions — to stay indoors and avoid all strenuous activity. People who work outdoors, pregnant women and babies, seniors, and people who are homeless are particularly vulnerable to illness. An extreme heat alert also remains in effect, a combination which health officials have warned can lead to an increase in serious illness and death.

Cooling centres and air-conditioned spaces are open across the region. Click here to find a list.

But the situation in B.C.’s Interior and Okanagan regions is far more dire, with cities like Vernon, Kelowna, and Salmon Arm recording rating far above 301 — which is the threshold for “hazardous.”

“While no amount of air pollution is safe for human health, ‘hazardous’ air quality is the most life-endangering measurement and has no designated ceiling for measuremen,” according to IQ Air.

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“When air quality is ‘unhealthy’, ‘very unhealthy,” or “hazardous, the general public is very likely to feel immediate and harmful effects from outdoor smoke.”

Meantime, with no precipitation in the forecast and strong winds predicted in the southern Interior, the BC Wildfire Service is warning that the next 72 hours will likely bring “increased fire activity.”