BC Wildfire Service image of ongoing Shovel Lake wildfire. The fire is currently active at 86,397 hectares as of Aug. 21.

In Our Opinion: Want clean air? Come to Rupert

Northern B.C. air quality as bad as New Delhi after wildfires rage in the region

Take a deep breath. With that fresh ocean air, it’s hard to imagine what the air quality is in other parts of the province right now.

When the B.C. government declared a state of emergency, for the second summer in a row due to the wildfires spreading across the province, it almost didn’t compute in Prince Rupert.

Air quality is one of the issues our fellow B.C. residents are facing, something we rarely have to consider in Prince Rupert where the air flows so effectively that an airshed report in 2016 stated that if six LNG projects, growth at the port, and rail development occurred all at once the North Coast would easily be able to cope with emissions.

But LNG didn’t happen, and while the port may continue to grow, our air is clean and absent of the fine particulate matter (PM) that residents of northern B.C. are breathing in due to smoke from wildfires.

The finest of particles, PM2.5, poses the greatest risk. The material is so small that while breathing it in particles can get into your lungs, even your heart and bloodstream.

On Sunday, Aug. 19, Prince George and Vanderhoof were under air quality alerts. From the Prince George Plaza the 24-hour average of PM2.5 was 152.4 µg/m3 and from the courthouse in Vanderhoof the air quality was at PM2.5 140 µg/m3. To put this into perspective, New Delhi, which has the worst levels of PM2.5 in the world, was at 153 PM2.5 on the same day.

READ MORE: B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

In other parts of the province, tourists are deterred from visiting the lakes and mountains with wildfires burning and the government declaring a state of emergency.

Why not come to Prince Rupert instead?

There are many reasons why people move to Prince Rupert but you don’t often hear that it’s due to breathing in clean air.

With two explosive fire seasons in a row, the B.C. government should consider setting up a sanatorium, or a Miller Bay-type facility, on the North Coast for those suffering from smoke related illnesses. For those who don’t remember, Miller Bay treated Indigenous patients who had tuberculosis, a very serious lung disease.

Nevermind losing a home, or a neighbourhood to a fire. It’s terrifying to think what the health care costs are going to be in the future.

READ MORE: Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India


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