Specialists predict that Canadian province British Columbia is prone to encounter another arid summer, filled with smoke from wildfires. When the smoke covered Metro Vancouver the previous summer, many residents had to close their windows and stay inside as the air was unbreathable.
Fortunately, this year, Vancouver Coastal Health and Metro Vancouver have included in their priority list of people vulnerable to wildfire smokes pregnant women, along with asthmatics, older adults, and those suffering from lung and chronic heart conditions. Nikki Rogers of White Rock says that the wildfire smoke is one more thing expectant mothers will have to be concerned about this summer as the air is filling with smoke, and every year it gets worse and worse.
Wildfires have been affecting British Columbia since April 2019
Just last week, a wildfire broke out near Lions Bay, tangling the traffic on the Sea to Sky Highway for days, and another one started on Monday near Pender Harbour on the Sechelt Peninsula.
Hotter and drier conditions resulted in stubborn fires beginning with early spring, way sooner than in previous years. Since April the 1st, Wildfire Service has reported 377 fires that have burned over 110 square kilometers. The smoke conducted officials to release several air-quality advisories, and offer vast advice on how people should try to stay healthy. After lobbying by Sarah Henderson, an environmental health scientist at B.C. Centre for Disease Control, officials included pregnant women on the list of the most vulnerable to the smoke.
A study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley found that pregnant women breathing in wildfire smoke while on their second trimester back in 2003, had babies that were approximately 10 grams lighter than women not bared to the smoke. The discoveries were not huge but were significant as they showed that climate change could impact health.
Wildfire smoke is a toxic, chemical jam
Wildfire smoke has numerous pollutants, but the most harmful to human health is the fine particulate matter, a compound of solid fragments and liquid drips that have a size of 2.5 micrometers or less. “The very small particles can be inhaled deeply into your lungs and then get into your bloodstream, and irritate and lead to inflammation,” said Emily Peterson, a Vancouver Coastal Health, environmental health scientist.
A typical summer day in Metro Vancouver would contain about 10 to 15 micrograms a cubic meter of these tiny fragments, but during the last summer’s wildfires, the amount tenfold. The polluted air makes it difficult for the lungs to get oxygen into the bloodstream, and it can irritate the respiratory system and lead to inflammation in the body. Typical manifestations are eye irritation, sore throat, coughing, asthmatic breathing, and headaches. There is also a danger of infections, such as pneumonia and ear infections.
Some of the precautions medical experts offer are to stay inside places with filtered air, for instance, community centers, libraries, or malls. Also, drive with the windows up, with the air conditioner and the recirculated-air button on to decrease the quantity of smoke entering your car, and drink copious amounts of water. If people go outside and opt for a mask, Henderson recommends an N95 respirator, as a commonly used surgical mask provides limited protection.
Bo has over six years experience as a teacher, advocate and speaker. He has a B.S. from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in Human rights from Harvard University Graduate School.