The air quality index explained

On Aug. 3, Kamloops’ air quality health index was ranked at a 49.


August 12, 2017 – 4:30 PM

With more than 100 wildfires burning across the province, residents are getting used to – and sick of – the smoke that comes with them.

Nearly everyday for the past month, an air quality health index number is tagged along with the daily weather report for the Southern Interior and other parts of the province. The number has ranged from a five, to a seven, all the way up to a shocking 49 in Kamloops. However, on a scale that appears to range from one to 10, how can that even be possible?

“I realize it’s alarming for people to see a 40 on a scale of one to 10, but that’s not to say it’s completely off the charts, there is a category for it,” provincial air quality meteorologist Donna Haga says. “The scale doesn’t end at 10, we just don’t often see numbers in that higher category.”

The air quality health index is a scale officials use to provide the public with health messages and alerts regarding risks associated with air pollution.

There are four categories in the Environment Canada index. When the health risk is low, the index will rank from one to three. A moderate health risk is four to six and a high risk is seven to 10. Anything above 10 is considered very high.

The three most common air pollutants known to harm health are ozone at ground level, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter. The more of these particles present in the air, the higher the risk will be.

Wildfire smoke falls under particulate matter, also known as PM2.5. Haga says the particulate matter caused by the wildfires is driving the air quality health index up.

“We use an…

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