Just in time for the summer smoke, a Fernie local has set up a monitor in their back yard to track air quality over the summer.
“I’ve been curious about air quality within the Elk Valley as there isn’t a great local source of data for PM2.5 concentrations,” said Elk River Alliance board member Ashlee Jollymore.
“The closest monitor within the provincial monitoring network is in Cranbrook, and there also wasn’t a citizen science sensor through the Purple Air network available anywhere in the Elk Valley. Given that we are located in a relatively confined valley, it’s likely that our air quality could be different from even Cranbrook,” she said.
PM2.5 refers to tiny particulate matter that is smaller than 2.5 micrometres. For reference, a human hair is 70 micrometres in diametre.
“I wanted to set up a monitor during the summer to be able to measure the air quality during the wildfire season, but I’m also concerned about the potential for other sources of particulates in the Valley to impact air quality even when there aren’t any wildfires.
“I also really like the real time nature of the data collection; before going on a hike or bike ride, you can easily check what the air quality is and make a decision based on your own personal circumstances and risk tolerance.”
Jollymore pointed to studies showing connections between exposure fine particles and our health, with evidence that exposure can cause problems for people with heart of lung disease, as well as aggravate asthma symptoms, decrease lung function and cause problems breathing.
“It’s important to monitor the amount of these very fine particles through the year, given their impact on human health,” said Jollymore.
“It is also important to monitor as some of the sources of PM2.5 particles can be very local, so it can be difficult to look at a sensor in Cranbrook and understand air quality in Fernie. These sources of particulates include wildfire smoke, industrial activity (including mining activity), and exhaust from cars and trucks.”
The data from the local monitor is being fed into the ‘Purple Air Network’, which can be found online, here.
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