Special air quality statement issued for Edmonton area, city pools closed

Environment Canada has issued an air quality statement for Edmonton, St. Albert and Sherwood Park.

Wildfire smoke is reducing visibility and causing poor air quality, Environment Canada says.

Area residents are encouraged to take extra precautions to reduce exposure to it.

"Wildfire smoke is a constantly-changing mixture of particles and gasses which includes many chemicals that can harm your health," Environment Canada said. 

Edmonton’s air quality health index was a five as of 2 p.m. It had been at an eight earlier in the day, in the "high risk" category.

Low ranges in the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) are from one to three and high ranges sit between seven and 10.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's top doctor tweeted about the low air quality Thursday and encouraged Albertans to reduce outdoor activities.

I encourage ABs to exercise caution for the next 24-48 hrs, esp if you have underlying health conditions. Reduce or slow-down outdoor activities & close windows & vents to reduce heat & smoke from getting inside. For more info on air quality visit: https://t.co/9GMvWaFYaU (2/3)

— Dr. Deena Hinshaw (@CMOH_Alberta) July 15, 2021

CITY CLOSURES

The City of Edmonton closed its outdoor pools and green shacks due to the poor air quality and also moved its outdoor day camps and rec programs indoors for the rest of the day.

"A family travelling out there, trying to get to the pools, and they get the news it's shut down - it is a bit upsetting," said father Arnold Bolanos. 

Experts say air quality effects should be minimal for those who don’t live with underlying health conditions, but are recommending people in the Edmonton area to stay cautious when it comes to strenuous activities.

“If you start to sense issues like your throat starts to burn, you start to cough more, lower your activities,” said Kevin McCullum, data manager at Alberta Capital Airshed Society.

McCullum says the smoke creating a haze over the Edmonton area is coming from both west and south of Alberta. Wildfires occurring in B.C., as well as North Dakota and Montana are responsible for the smoke that has drifted into the province.

That smoke might stick around for a while according to McCullum, but Edmonton’s air quality shouldn’t get significantly worse.

“You can see some of the breaks in the forecast as clean air comes moving in it will help dissipate the smoke,” said McCullum.

The City of Leduc also closed its outdoor pool and spray park on Thursday as a result of the high-risk air quality index.

Attention #Leduc: https://t.co/Hcu3avsaDu#airquality #healthfirst #outdoorrecreation pic.twitter.com/HFCt11KNl4

— City of Leduc (@CityofLeduc) July 15, 2021