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Some Kamloops doctors want Health Ministry to set the record straight on air quality

Dr. Jill Calder is a leading member of the Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
August 18, 2017 - 4:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - The Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society has reached out to the Ministry of Health to express concerns the message the province is giving to Kamloops residents about the risks of breathing in wildfire smoke are misleading.

Dr. Jill Calder wrote to deputy provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on behalf of the physicians' group earlier this week regarding statements Henry made to the local media. Henry was quoted saying no long term impacts from breathing in wildfire smoke should be expected.

"We don't mean to stir up panic or anything," Calder says. "But there is a fair amount of literature to suggest a spike in air pollution can accumulate and cause health impacts."

Calder adds Kamloops is in an unprecedented situation this summer, and until there has been studies done, health officials shouldn't be reassuring people that everything will be fine.

"That type of information is not forthcoming from the ministries who we feel are responsible for that," she says.

What Calder and her fellow physicians would like to see come from a study of air quality in Kamloops is historical data that allows them to compare summers like 2017 to what a 'normal' summer should look like in terms of air quality. Then she would like to see the province follow the lead of Los Angeles and create an emergency messaging protocol that, for example, can tell schools whether they are allowed to send children outside based on the air quality.

Calder says the current system of ranking air quality was proven to be flawed over the past few weeks as Kamloops air quality reached a 47 on a scale that normally is meant to go from 1 to 10.

"I mean, what kind of a scale is that? And it doesn't say 'change your air filters regularly' or 'wear a face mask'," she says. "The only warnings are for children and the elderly or those with respiratory issues. Well I don't have any health issues and if I went outside on those bad days to water my plants I would have a heavy chest and a headache."

Calder says the main goal for herself and the other physicians who are concerned about this is for the government to implement some type of protocol to keep people healthy when the air quality spikes. She adds that while many people may think this fire season and the resulting air quality is a one-off for the region, climate change experts believe summers like this one could become far less rare for Kamloops.

To see the letter from Dr. Calder to the Deputy Provincial Health Officer, go here.

For more on air quality, go here.

For more on B.C. Wildfires, go here.


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