New air quality warning issued for Metro Vancouver as wildfire smoke arrives

A day after ending an air quality advisory related to ground-level ozone caused by hot weather, Metro Vancouver has issued a new air quality advisory because of wildfire smoke. 

The regional authority announced the latest air quality advisory in a news release Sunday afternoon, saying "high concentrations of fine particulate matter" are expected over the next few days.

"Smoke from wildfires burning in the Interior of B.C. and Washington has moved into and over our region, contributing to elevated fine particulate matter concentrations and hazy skies," Metro Vancouver said in the statement. "Onshore winds forecast for Tuesday may begin to clear the smoke."

The advisory is in place for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District. Metro Vancouver said smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as wind, temperatures and fire behaviour all change.

"Fine particulate matter" is defined as airborne solid or liquid particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less. Metro Vancouver says such particles "can easily penetrate indoors" because of their small size.

Exposure to fine particulate matter is of particular concern for people with underlying conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and diabetes, according to Metro Vancouver.

People with respiratory infections, including COVID-19, as well as children, infants, older adults and people who are pregnant are also at elevated risk, as are people experiencing homelessness, the regional authority said.

Metro Vancouver recommends postponing or reducing outdoor physical activity until the advisory is lifted; staying cool and hydrated; and seeking shelter in indoor spaces with air conditioning and HEPA air filtration.

Those experiencing chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing should seek medical attention, Metro Vancouver says.