Wood Smoke Impacts

Wood Smoke affects everyone, but especially children, seniors, pregnant women and people with existing lung and heart conditions. BC Lung has identified many hazardous substances in wood smoke including: fine particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Exposure to wood smoke increases the likelihood that health conditions will develop.

Short-term health effects include: headaches, irritated eyes and throat, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, reduced lung function, and worsening lung conditions like asthma and COPD.

Long-term health effects include: premature death, increased risk of heart attack, increased blood pressure, low birthweight in babies, and respiratory illnesses in children.

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Smoke is impacting my home, what can I do to improve indoor air quality?

There are a number of ways to improve the indoor air quality in your home.

  • Consider using a portable air purifier;
  • Upgrade or replace the air filters in your furnace or central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system;
  • Avoid using exhaust fans or dryers when it is smoky outside as this will draw air into your home; and/or
  • Open the windows, and air out your home when air quality improves, even if it is temporary. In the Comox Valley, winter air quality is best during the afternoons, when wood burning is less likely.

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What is an atmospheric temperature inversion? How do atmospheric inversions impact air quality?

In normal atmospheric conditions, warm air near the ground rises and carries away any pollutants emitted at the surface. During an atmospheric temperature inversion, the air near the ground is colder than the warm air above. This cold air is more dense than warm air so it does not rise. This traps pollutants near the ground until the atmosphere changes. The topography of the Comox Valley increases the occurrence of atmospheric temperature inversions and contributes to the excessive smoke experienced during cold seasons.