The season of air pollution continues in Vernon.
The first dust advisory of the year was issued Feb. 15. And three days later it is continued.
The B.C. Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy, in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority, issued the advisory for Vernon because of high concentrations of coarse particulate matter that are expected to persist until there is precipitation, dust suppression or a change in traffic patterns.
As of Wednesday, levels in Vernon were 60.3. Compare that to neighbouring Kelowna, where levels were at 18.
By Friday, Kelowna levels crept up to 23.8 while Vernon rose to 65.7.
The provincial air quality objective for PM10 is 50 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3), averaged over 24 hours.
“The current dusty conditions are caused by road traffic stirring up winter traction materials that have accumulated on roadways over the past winter,” the ministry said in a release.
“Levels tend to be highest around busy roads and industrial operations.”
This advisory is in effect until further notice.
“Exposure is particularly a concern for individuals with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and diabetes; respiratory infections such as COVID-19, pregnant women, infants, and older adults,” the ministry said. “Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions or acute infections should postpone or reduce strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted.”
Where appropriate, maintain physical distancing. Anyone experiencing symptoms such as continuing eye or throat irritation, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, cough or wheezing, should follow the advice of their health care provider.
Staying indoors helps to reduce particulate matter exposure.
Real-time air quality observations and information regarding the health effects of air pollution can be found at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-landwater/air.
Coarse particulate matter refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with diameters between 2.5 and 10 micrometers (µm).
Together with fine particulate matter (airborne solid or liquid droplets with diameters of 2.5 µm or less), these particles are referred to as PM10.
Sources of PM10 contributing to this air quality episode include road dust from the emission of winter traction material along busy and dry road surfaces. PM10 can easily penetrate indoors because of their small size.
Tips to reduce your personal health risk:
• Avoid roads with heavy vehicle traffic and areas with wood smoke.
• Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity; if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
• Maintaining good overall health is a good way to reduce health risks resulting from shortterm exposure to air pollution.
• Run an air cleaner. Some room air cleaners, such as HEPA filters, can help reduce indoor particulate levels provided they are the right size for your home and filters are changed regularly.
• In public spaces, buildings with large indoor volumes of filtered outside air may provide temporary relief. When indoors, ensure physical distancing guidelines for COVID-19 are
observed. Be aware that space within indoor public buildings may be limited due to physical distancing guidelines for COVID-19.
Additional tips for persons with chronic underlying medical conditions:
• People with heart or respiratory conditions (including COVID-19) should watch for any change in symptoms that may be due to poor air quality exposure. If any symptoms are noted, affected individuals should take steps to reduce their exposure to poor air quality.
If symptoms continue to be bothersome, seek medical attention.
• People with asthma or other chronic illness should activate their asthma or personal care plan.
• People with chronic underlying medical conditions or acute infections should postpone or reduce strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted.
• Stay indoors, keep windows and doors closed and reduce indoor sources of pollution such as smoking, vacuuming and use of wood stoves. When indoors, ensure physical distancing guidelines for COVID-19 are observed.
Voluntary Emission Reduction Actions:
• Avoid the use of wood stoves and fireplaces unless the sole source of residential heat.
• Where woodstoves or fireplaces are the sole source of residential heat, burn dry wood and ensure an adequate supply of combustion air.
• Reduce the use and idling of vehicles.