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Posts Tagged "smoke"

18Jun

Will this be another summer of wildfire smoke and poor air quality in B.C.?

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Shell Road in Richmond was hit by a wildfire on July 27, 2018.


Francis Georgian / PNG

All indications suggest British Columbians should prepare for another smoky summer this year, experts warned today.

B.C. Wildfire information shows the province has so far this year seen increased drought and higher-than-average temperatures, which are expected to continue. Experts are predicting a greater risk of wildfires and smoke in the province this summer, particularly in the southwest, which includes Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver air quality engineer Francis Reis said more studies are making a strong link between climate change and the exacerbation of wildfire seasons.

“As we continue to see further warming, we can expect the patterns we are seeing now to continue or even get more extreme,” he said.

Residents are reminded to try to stay indoors when air quality bulletins are issued.

The summers of 2017 and 2018 were the worst on record for smoky skies in B.C., caused by wildfires. This led to warnings that people take caution when outside, especially those with asthma, lung conditions, the elderly and pregnant women.

The hot, dry spring has many worried that 2019 could also bring hazy skies that are bad for residents’ health.

More to come…

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Twitter: @loriculbert




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6Feb

Smoke from wildfire is like a ‘chemical soup,’ says fire researcher

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VANCOUVER — Inhaling smoke from a wildfire can be equal to smoking a couple of packs of cigarettes a day depending on its thickness, says a researcher studying wildfires in Western Canada.

Mike Flannigan, a professor with the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, said the smoke is like a “chemical soup” that can be trapped in the lungs and cause a number of health issues.

“They are all kinds of particles, mercury, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane … there’s a whole long list.”

Depending on the size of the particles, they get trapped in the lungs, accumulate over time and cause “all kinds of problems,” Flannigan said.

“The more we are finding out about smoke and health, the more we are finding out it is bad for us, which isn’t a surprise but its worse than we thought.”

Sarah Henderson, a senior environmental health scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, said the smaller the particles, the worse they are.

Both Flannigan and Henderson will make presentations at the BC Lung Association’s annual workshop on air quality and health on Wednesday.

Their presentation is timely after extreme wildfire seasons in British Columbia in 2017 and 2018. Smoke from forest fires last year reached Atlantic Canada and even as far away as Ireland.

Emissions vary depending on the differences in fuel, burning conditions and other environmental factors, Flannigan said.

The spread hinges on how high smoke and fire columns rise. Winds can carry the particles north to Europe and Asia, across the world and back again, Flannigan said.

“They can travel long distances for long periods of time.”

Henderson said most people living in polluted places face a risk of chronic diseases and slightly shorter life expectancy but that data comes from cities such as New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world.

The air quality in British Columbia is “extremely good” except for a few weeks during wildfire season, she said.

“If we have a season like 2017 and 2018, year after year for the next 20 years, we probably will have a health impact on the population but we don’t know what that will be yet,” Henderson said.

People should protect themselves from the smoke by spending time indoors, using air filters and not exercising strenuously when outside, she said.

In 2017, the area burned in B.C. was 12,000 square kilometres, which was a record until last summer when 13,000 square kilometres of the province was consumed by fire. The B.C. government declared a state of emergency for both seasons.

The intensity of wildfires, as shown through remote sensing, is also increasing, Flannigan said, noting that as fuels get drier it is easier for fires to start and spread.

And the wildfire season is also starting much sooner, he said.

In Alberta the wildfire season used to begin April 1 but it’s now starting March 1 and is lasting longer.

“In Canada our area burned has doubled since the 1970s. And my colleagues and I attribute this to — I can’t be any clearer — human-caused climate change,” he said. “Our climate is changing and this has affected fire activity in Canada, western United States and other parts of the world.”

The last two years saw over four per cent of forested area burn in B.C. and the province is nowhere close to exhausting how much can burn, Flannigan said.

Historically, he said, it would have been unlikely that the province would have seen a third bad fire season.

“But its entirely possible,” he said.

Climate change is making the jet stream weaker, which is causing hot, dry summer days, which are conducive to fire activity, he said.

“Will things get worse? Absolutely. Not every year. Some years will be cooler, some years will be wetter,” Flannigan said.

“On an average we’re going to see a lot more fire, and they’re going to be longer fire seasons, more intense, and the primary reason why climate change influences fire activity is that the warmer it gets the more fire we see.”


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22Jan

Some women think it’s OK to smoke pot while pregnant: UBC report

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(evgenyatamanenko/Getty Images)


Researchers at the University of B.C. have found that some women don’t consider cannabis a drug and believe it’s OK to light up a joint while pregnant.

The review of six U.S. studies, published in the journal Preventative Medicine, found that an alarming number of women, around one-third, don’t think cannabis could harm their baby.

That’s despite warnings from obstetricians not to consume cannabis during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, and studies that have linked pot with a higher chance of anemia, low birth weight, and stillbirth.


Do you think it’s safe to consume cannabis while pregnant? The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends women not use cannabis when trying to conceive, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

Although the UBC researchers analyzed U.S. data for their report, published in the journal Preventative Medicine, they say the information is relevant for health care providers in Canada, where consuming marijuana for recreational use became legal last year.

Lead author Hamideh Bayrampour, assistant professor in the UBC department of family practice, said they couldn’t find similar studies in Canada likely because of ethical issues. She said there is a need for more Canadian data on the topic.

The concern, said Bayrampour, is that many women surveyed perceived a lack of communication from their health care providers about the risks of cannabis as an indication that the drug is safe to use during pregnancy.

“This is important because if they don’t perceive harm they are more likely to use cannabis,” she said.

“What we know for sure is that we don’t know yet whether cannabis is safe to use in pregnancy, although there is evidence emerging that if a women uses cannabis their baby might be smaller than average.”

She said it would be beneficial here for health care providers to have a discussion with patients about cannabis, just as they do now with alcohol or cigarettes.

Some women surveyed said they smoked pot while pregnant to cope with an illness, such as depression or anxiety, instead of taking stronger pharmaceutical drugs, while others identified cannabis as a way to deal with the nausea of morning sickness.

“If they are choosing between cannabis and a sedative for pain they perceive cannabis as a safer choice,” said Bayrampour.

The UBC review shows pregnant cannabis users were more likely to be under the age of 25 and to have low income and education, or use other substances such as tobacco and alcohol.

In one study, women were asked about their perception of general harm associated with cannabis use, 70 per cent of both pregnant and non-pregnant cannabis users responded that they perceived slight or no risk of harm.

“I think we need to have a question specifically related to cannabis similar to alcohol. We need to provide a safe, non judgmental environment to talk about this,” said Bayrampour. “It is a great opportunity for caregivers to start this conversation and motivate and support them in their decision to quit.”

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommend women not use cannabis when trying to conceive, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

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