What’s PM2.5 and why is it causing B.C.’s 10th consecutive day of toxic air

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Canada usually isn’t on the radar for the global conversation on air quality, especially unrelenting poor air quality.

For the past ten days, Vancouver, and other areas in British Columbia, have topped world charts for having the poorest air quality.

The cause of the plummeting air quality is the smoke coming from the historical wildfires in western areas of the U.S.

The smoke has made its way across many Canadian provinces but has stayed aloft for most areas. B.C.’s situation, however, is its own story, as thick smoke has suffocated its most densely populated cities.

Environment Canada has released air quality advisories for Vancouver for ten consecutive days, marking the air “unhealthy.”

The air pollutant is called PM2.5, which is the same “poor air quality” pollutant prevalent in some major Asian cities.

WHAT IS PM2.5

If it’s science, it’s going to be an acronym. So all PM2.5 stands for is Particulate Matter 2.5 micrometres or less in size. These are particles found in air such as dust, soot, dirt, smoke, and liquid droplets. One of the issues with PM2.5 is their literal microscopic size. A human hair is expansive compared to the tiny particles that live in the air.

PM2.5 is believed to be the greatest health threat to people because it can get absorbed in the bloodstream when inhaled, and it stays in the air for a long period of time.

Particulate matter can directly come from natural or manmade sources, or be a product of other pollutants reacting to each other.

Examples of sources include emissions from industrial processes such as motor, power plants, wood burning.

Considering over 3 million acres of land has burned from Washington, Oregon and California wildfires, it’s no surprise that B.C. has been suffocated with PM2.5, the byproduct of a ton of wood burning.

WHEN IS B.C.’S AIR GOING TO GET BETTER?

It looks like southern British Columbia is going to get some showers this weekend, which would definitely help the air quality.

There has also been moisture in the air stateside, which has helped control the fires and the plumes of smoke.

Next week also looks promising as moisture comes in from the Pacific queueing showers mid-week and into the weekend.

WATCH BELOW: MORE ON HEALTH IMPACTS OF PM2.5

Dr. Courtney Howard, from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, discusses the potential impacts of being exposed to PM2.5.

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