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Poor air quality expected for a few days

Last Updated Aug 1, 2017 at 2:32 pm PST

The sun tries to beam on Vancouver, yet is clouded behind a wall of haze and smoke. (HanaMae Nassar, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

People with underlying health conditions being warned to take precautions

Thick hazy weather is expected to last, at least, the whole week

Fitness experts are giving you permission to skip the outdoor workouts for now

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you’ve been or looked outside today, you probably saw an orange sun and a hazy sky because of smoke that’s been brought in by winds from wildfires in the Interior.

We typically have pretty good air quality throughout the year, explains Geoff Doerksen with Metro Vancouver. However, he adds things have only just begun, and it’s still too soon to tell whether there’ll be a repeat of the haze we saw in 2015.

“Some years we don’t have the need to issue any advisories, while other years we have a need to issue advisories. So, until this plays out we won’t really know how bad things will get.”

Hot temperatures can be dangerous especially if you have:

  • breathing difficulties
  • heart problems
  • hypertension
  • kidney problems
  • a mental illness such as depression or dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease or if you take medication for any of these conditions

He explains outflow winds brought smoke in from the wildfires, and the bad air is expected to last a few days more.

With increased particulate matter in the air, Dr. Andrew Lardar with the Fraser Health Authority says their emergency rooms and facilities are all aware and always prepared for the situation, but people that are most sensitive to heat are also usually those affected by poor air quality. “Those people will be getting a double hit from the current weather conditions.”

Metro Vancouver says its experts are keeping an eye on the development of ground-level ozone as temperatures continue to climb, in some places, to the mid to high 30s.

Watch for symptoms of heat illness:

  • dizziness or fainting
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headache
  • rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • extreme thirst (dry mouth or sticky saliva) and decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine

 

Meantime, WorkSafe BC says anyone doing any work outside should be careful, warning they’re at higher risk of heat stress and if that’s left untreated it could lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. “Outdoor workers face many risks when the weather is hot,” says the organization’s Dan Strand. “By law, employers are required to know if their workers are at risk by performing a heat-stress assessment and implementing a mitigation plan, when necessary.”

In 2016, there were 16 accepted claims for work-related injuries caused by heat exhaustion and heat stroke in the province.

Fitness experts warn now is not the time to try for your personal best up the Grouse Grind.

With air quality expected to remain poor for the next several days, fitness experts say this is not the time to push yourself outdoors.

Fitness Town CEO James Newsman says getting your heart rate up outside is going to mean you’re breathing in more of the particles in the air, which could aggravate your airways.

“You’re doing more harm than good, so very light exercise if anything,” he says. “If you’re asthmatic especially, something like that, it would really affect you in a negative way today.”

Others agree, and say you do have other options.

“So you can do it at home or you can go to the community centre, or your local gym that you usually work out in,” says Ron Zalko, founder of Iron Man Canada and the CEO of Ron Zalko fitness and yoga.

“Be patient, your health is more important than anything else and by avoiding doing [outdoor exercise] for three or four days, it’s not really a big deal.”