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Poor air quality persists as wildfire smoke lingers over Alberta

Smoke from wildfires continues to drift across Alberta, covering much of the province in a thick haze.

After days shrouded in smog, special air quality statements remain in effect for almost every part of the province. 

The advisories from Environment Canada caution that smoke pollution can be harmful to everyone’s health, even at low concentrations.

Air pollution from wildfires has become an unwelcome part of summer in Alberta and this past week was no exception. The province spent the weekend under a blanket of smoke with air pollution measured at a 10-plus on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).

Developed by Health Canada, the system monitors the severity of air pollution by tracking fine particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. When the rating is high, people exposed to the smog face significant health risks.

The smoke moved into Alberta on Friday and despite initial forecasts that indicated the skies would clear by Saturday, the hazy conditions persisted, forcing many to cancel their long weekend plans and hunker down inside.

Some of the worst of the pollution is reaching Alberta’s largest cities. Residents of Edmonton and Calgary woke up Monday to the pungent smell of fire and a haze that clouded visibility on local roads.

As of Monday, the Air Quality Health Index for Edmonton was rated at a 10, or high risk. In Calgary, the air pollution was also considered a high risk on the AQHI scale. 

A detailed forecast from, a partnership of the federal government and western provinces and territories, shows the smoke is drifting in from wildfires burning in the B.C. and the north. 

The site’s animated map suggests that thick smoke will continue to linger over Alberta for much of this week.

Environment Canada said air quality and visibility due to the wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour.

People with lung disease, such as asthma, people with heart disease, older people, children, pregnant people and those who work outside are at higher risk of experiencing health effects, the agency said.

Environment Canada recommends the following:

  • If you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing, severe cough, dizziness or chest pains, stop outdoor activities and contact your health care provider.
  • If you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms, stay inside.
  • Keep your indoor air clean.
  • Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable.
  • Take a break from the smoke by temporarily relocating or finding a place in your community with clean, cool air such as a library, shopping mall or community centre.
  • If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator type mask that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and your face can help reduce your exposure to fine particles in smoke.
  • Be sure to check on people in your care and those who may be more susceptible to smoke.

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