Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley is hosting a public forum on air quality in the Comox Valley.
“It’s been over two and a half years since there was a public meeting on air quality in the Comox Valley,” said Jennell Ellis, a volunteer with the local citizen’s group, Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley. “Since then the issue has gained a lot more attention, and the number of people concerned has grown significantly, so we wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone to come and learn, in a respectful forum, about the scope of the problem and possible solutions.”
Three speakers are scheduled to share information on air quality. The first topic on the health impacts of wood smoke, will be presented by Dr. Charmaine Enns, Island Health’s Medical Officer for our region. She will highlight what we know about how fine particulates and other components of wood smoke can harm our health.
The second presenter, Earle Plain, Air Quality Meteorologist for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, will share information on what we know about air quality in the Comox Valley. In addition to talking about ongoing monitoring data from the Courtenay station, Plain will talk about some of the studies that have been done in the area over the last few years.
Jennell Ellis is the third speaker. She will share ideas on how our air quality can be improved, ranging from individual to local and provincial government approaches.
The event starts at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, March 14th in Courtenay’s Florence Filberg Centre. More information is available on www.breathecleanair.ca.
Additional Background information
Information on Wood Smoke
- For an overview of health impacts of wood smoke and fine particulates, please visit: http://breathecleanair.ca/health/. More detailed and extensive health related information can be found on the Doctors and Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution website: https://woodsmokepollution.org/index.html
- BC’s Healthlink states that “particulate matter is considered the air pollutant of greatest concern to human health in B.C.” https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/outdoor-air-pollution. BC Lung Association notes “Research has shown that there is no threshold below which smoke has no health effects.” https://bc.lung.ca/news/latest-news/bc-lung-association-cautions-against-wood-burning-and-urges-cleaner-alternatives-0.
- In addition to fine particulates, wood smoke contains many of the same toxic chemicals as cigarettes. The Canadian Lung Association notes that wood smoke contains volatile organic compounds such as furans, dioxins, benzene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are carcinogenic. It also contains harmful formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides. https://www.lung.ca/news/expert-opinions/pollution/residential-wood-burning
- Fine particulates from wood smoke remain in the air for days. The particles are invisible and don’t have an odour. So the potential for harm is present even when the visible wood smoke is gone.
Information on Courtenay/Comox air quality
- BC government monitoring of 13 communities in the Georgia Strait Air Zone repeatedly show Courtenay has some of the worst air quality in terms of fine particulates. The most recent report: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/air/reports-pub/air-zone-reports/2014-2016/georgia_strait_air_zone_report_2014-2016_final.pdf
- Annual State of the Air reports by the BC Lung Association also show that, of 40 communities measured in the province, Courtenay is one of the worst for fine particulate pollution. https://bc.lung.ca/protect-your-lungs/air-quality-lung-health/bc-state-air-report
- Additional materials can be found at http://breathecleanair.ca/resources/. There was also a mobile monitoring study done in the area in 2017 that highlights that older residential areas in Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland have the worst PM2.5 levels. See maps here: http://breathecleanair.ca/problem/mobile-monitoring-maps/
- A recent study called “Patterns of Air Quality and Meteorology in Courtenay BC 2011-2016” examines patterns in ambient air quality and meteorology in the city of Courtenay BC over five years. The air pollutants that were considered include fine particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3). https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/air/reports-pub/courtenay_airquality_report_2011-2016.pdf).