Air Pollution from Forest Fires

By Surgically Clean Air

Wildfire Smoke Makes Vancouver, Canada… Look Like Bejing, China

Canada experiences up to 8,000 wildfires per year. These fires produce an immense amount of smoke that can get up into the upper atmosphere and travel hundreds of kilometres and impact the lives of millions of people.

In the summer of 2017, the smoke plume from the forest fires in the interior of British Columbia and Alberta travelled as far as Vancouver. Satellite images showed the vast expanse of these giant smoke plumes.

Wildfire Smoke Makes Vancouver, Canada… Look Like Bejing, China

Once the smoke reached Vancouver, the airborne pollution levels were so high that Vancouver, Canada looked more like Beijing, China. These before and after photos show the extent of the air pollution.

Forest fire pollution can contain:

  • Particulate Matter
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Atmospheric Mercury
  • Ozone-Forming Chemicals
  • Volatile Organic Compounds

The toxic mixture in wildfire smoke can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation as well as more serious issues such as reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbation of asthma, and premature death (California Dept of Health, 2008).

The smallest particles (with sizes less than 2.5 microns, PM2.5) can be inhaled deep into the lungs and are of principal concern for the relatively short exposures associated with wildfire smoke events. The PM2.5 is linked to an increased risk of mortality and aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
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