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Grande Prairie encouraged to monitor air quality as wildfire smoke drifts through region

Alberta Health Services is reminding people in the Grande Prairie area to keep an eye on the sky. Smoke from wildfires in both California and Oregon is slowly making its way into northwestern Alberta.

Medical Officer of Health for the AHS North zone Dr. Kathryn Koliaska says particulate matter in wildfire smoke, which can include things like sulfur dioxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide, may be microscopic but can do big damage to those breathing it in.

“Especially if you already have breathing problems like asthma, COPD, or those types of things, then it pays off to be aware of what’s coming, the environment around you, and take steps in limiting breathing in poor air quality.”

Dr. Koliaska says one of the keys to keeping safe when wildfire smoke begins to sit over the Grande Prairie region, is to keep an eye on the air quality index, which can be found from locally operated organizations like the Peace Airshed Zone Association. Dr. Koliaska adds while the region normally sit at a quality index of 0 to 2, when the index begins to tick higher it’s about knowing what’s out there and making the right choices.

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“Perhaps you want to adjust your fitness routine and do something indoors instead of outdoors that day, especially if it’s heavy exertion. Not everything is modifiable and not everyone has the same sensitivities, so it is a judgment call.”

She adds that if someone already has difficulties with their breathing, it may be proactive to limit their time outside overall. According to FireSmoke.ca, Grande Prairie residents can expect a haze in the air for at least the next 48 hours, as smoke continues to drift in and out of the region.

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