Okanagan air quality plummets as fires rage

The current Air Quality Health Index rating is seven, which is a high risk to health.

A new blanket of smoke has covered much of the southern Interior.

Mirroring the conditions of the last long weekend, residents from Lumby to Penticton and Kamloops to Salmon Arm likely saw a grey haze from the fires move in.

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The Air Quality Health Index rating for the South, Central and North Okanagan is seven, which is considered a high risk to health.

The worst of it is in Kamloops, which now has an AQHI rating of nine.

The smoke may cause symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.

People with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, can be particularly sensitive to air pollution. They will generally experience more serious health effects at lower levels.

Pollution can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits, and hospital visits. Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties.

The Ministry of Health says area residents should find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help.

If you open the windows you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, consider going to a public place (library, shopping mall, recreation centre) that is air-conditioned.

For more information on current air quality, see: www.bcairquality.ca. Visit www.airhealth.ca for information on how to reduce your health risk and your personal contribution to pollution levels, as well as for current and forecast AQHI values.