Smoke from forest fires in northern Québec has moved south, causing significant air pollution.
Smoke is made up small particles, gases and water vapor. It is created when a material is burned. Water vapour makes up the majority of smoke. The remainder includes carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, irritant volatile organic compounds, air toxics and very small particles.
Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks have issued a Special Air Quality Statement for the Eastern Ontario region. Environment and Climate Change Canada has also issued a Smog Warning for the Lachute region in Québec. When the outdoor air quality health reaches level 7 or higher (high to very high risk level) on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), you should take precautions for yourself and those you care for. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is advising residents to monitor the air quality and avoid strenuous outdoor activities while air quality is poor, as they may cause respiratory symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath.
Follow these tips during poor air quality to protect yourself and those in your care:
- Infants, young children, the elderly, people with heart or breathing problems, and other people at risk should stay indoors. Exposure to air pollution is particularly a concern for children, the elderly, and those who have underlying medical conditions such as lung or heart disease.
- Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties. 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.
- Avoid strenuous activities. When outdoors, if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce strenuous physical activities. If you experience irritation of the eyes, nose or throat, shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms, you should take action to reduce your exposure to outdoor air pollution.
- Stay away from areas with automobile traffic and limit the amount of time you spend in areas where pollution can be elevated, like busy streets during rush hour and industrial zones, especially when you exercise.
- Have an adequate supply of medication (more than 5 days) and develop a plan together with your health care provider for how to manage your condition during periods of poor air quality.
Potential health effects of poor air quality include: eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing and wheezing, worsening of symptoms for those who have lung diseases (e.g. asthma, COPD), difficulty breathing, reduced lung capacity, lowered resistance to infections, increased heart and lung conditions, increase in visits to the emergency room and hospital admissions, and premature death.
To learn more about protecting yourself during poor air quality conditions, visit www.airqualityontario.com/aqhi/health_messages.php and