Air quality from Kelowna to Kamloops improved under pandemic restrictions | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Air quality from Kelowna to Kamloops improved under pandemic restrictions

Wildfire smoke has played havoc with air quality in Kamloops in recent years. Fire and burning bans throughout the province to help people suffering from the novel coronavirus may have also played a large role in improving air quality.
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June 10, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Did you breathe easier than usual this spring?

As was the case around the world, B.C. saw “discernible changes in air quality” since the emergence of COVID-19 and social distancing recommendations prompted the closure of businesses and social lives, Trina Orchard, an Air Quality Meteorologist with B.C.’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said.

“We have seen a decrease in pollutant levels since the emergence of COVID-19 but we haven’t been quantifying them,” Orchard said.

The data is, however, collected and will be examined more closely by a group at Environment and Climate Change Canada. They will be doing a nationwide study looking at the changes in emission ions since the emergence of COVID-19 and local data will be involved.

Already, Nanaimo's Vancouver Island university did a study that found a dramatic improvement in air quality around B.C.

Orchard said the study looked at the first two weeks in March and compared it to the second two weeks, and found that nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter dropped from 30 to 60 per cent in most areas surveyed — the Thompson and Okanagan were not included in the study.

While it may seem like the drop in pollutants was common sense, given the reduction in driving, Orchard said that the other big shift toward cleaner air was the burn bans that were implemented.

There is typically a lot of open burning in the spring by residents, land developers and farmers that can have a negative effect on air quality, depending on the weather and the proximity of the burn to people.

On March 26, a provincewide burn ban, coupled with bans put in place at the local level, was issued and has resulted in lower fine particulate levels in most communities.

This measure was put in place based on recommendations from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Then the B.C. Wildfire Service issued a complementary burn ban of its own on April 16, further reducing the impact of wildfire smoke on air quality and public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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