As forest fires continue to burn throughout Western and Northern Canada this summer, residents of and visitors to Alberta may experience health effects due to smoke in the air. On average, Alberta sees 1,600 forest fires burn between the months of April and October of a given year. It is also possible for forest fires burning in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories to prompt air quality advisories in Alberta.
Not only do forest fires pose danger to natural habitat, but also to human health. To learn about:
- the health effects caused by forest fire smoke;
- ways to reduce exposure to the smoke; and,
- ways to manage pre-existing lung conditions,
see the “Forest Fires and Lung Health” blog.
The smoke created during a blaze consists of small particles, vapours, and gases –including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide. The “at risk” population including those with lung disease and/or heart disease, seniors, children and athletes/workers outdoors are at higher risk of health effects.
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) has two apps available for free that allow easy access to forest fire and air quality information. These apps are vital tools for the management of health.
To stay up-to-date on the location of forest fires, consult the Alberta Wildfire App. This app was developed to help Albertans see where current forest fires are burning and what the impact might be on their lives. It also allows for the reporting of forest fires. The app is available on both the iOS and Android platforms. For more information on Alberta forest fires, please visit www.wildfire.alberta.ca.
To stay up-to-date on the air quality, consult the Alberta Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) App. The AQHI provides a number from 1 to 10 to indicate the level of health risk associated with local air quality. The higher the AQHI number, the greater the health risk and need to take precautions. The AQHI also provides recommendations to the general and “at-risk” populations on how to minimize respiratory health risks, along with timely forecasts to help plan outdoor activities. The Alberta AQHI App can be downloaded on iOS, Blackberry and Android phones. In addition, the AQHI can be checked any time throughout the day at www.airquality.alberta.ca or 1-877-247-7333.