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(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
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|Air pollution level
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| 27 US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Richmond is currently 1.3 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Tuesday, Feb 20
Good 20 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 21
Good 17 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 22
Good 21 AQI US
Good 27 AQI US
|Saturday, Feb 24
Good 9 AQI US
|Sunday, Feb 25
Good 7 AQI US
|Monday, Feb 26
Good 6 AQI US
|Tuesday, Feb 27
Good 5 AQI US
|Wednesday, Feb 28
Good 5 AQI US
|Thursday, Feb 29
Good 4 AQI US
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Richmond is a city located in British Columbia, in the western region of Canada. It is a coastal city in the Lower Mainland region, a geographic and cultural area within British Columbia that covers parts of metropolitan Vancouver and Fraser Valley. Richmond itself is home to some 198,000 inhabitants, as of 2016, and thus will likely have grown considerably since then. In regards to its air quality, Richmond consistently comes in with very clean readings, indicating a respectable level of air cleanliness. This would be of great aid for people who suffer from any health conditions, particularly of the cardiac or pulmonary variety, as well as the rest of the population having access to pollution-free air, save for the rare occasions where events such as forest fires can cause the pollution levels to spike rapidly.
Of note is that such events can cause high pollution readings in towns and cities many miles away from their original source, due to strong winds being able to blow smoke clouds great distances, causing the US AQI and PM2.5 levels to go up rapidly in localized areas that may not be directly adjacent to said wildfires. In a similar fashion to how meteorological conditions can inadvertently bring air pollution to a city, they can also aid greatly in removing it, with strong winds being one of the most significant ways in which pollution is removed from the air within a city. Strong rains can also help, although they are far less efficient in pollution removal than winds are, with rain only having a minute effect on chemical pollutants and ultrafine particles. Rain can, however, remove larger particles from the air by tamping them down, but as mentioned this is limited to particles above a certain size, which present far less of a risk to one’s health than ultrafine particles do (with PM2.5 being one of the most dangerous forms of pollution present in the air in Richmond and throughout the world).
Looking at the US AQI reading in early August of 2021, it can be seen that Richmond had a US AQI reading of 28, placing it within the 'good' air quality rating bracket. This is color-coded as green and is one of the most optimal air quality ratings that can be attained, showing that the air is free from large amounts of pollution. The entirety of July and August all had readings that fell within this 'good' rating bracket, with the highest reading being 45, taken at the very end of July.
As mentioned, Richmond has a very good level of air cleanliness, being significantly freer from contaminating clouds of smoke, haze, smog and fine particle pollution. This is the case for many cities in Canada, with many coming in on the global ranking scale as having some of the best air quality worldwide. As a reference, in 2020, Richmond came in with a yearly PM2.5 average reading of 6.8 μg/m³, placing it within the World Health Organization's (WHO's) target goal for the best level of air quality at 10 μg/m³ or less, with the closest to 0 of course being the most optimal. There was however a month with significantly higher pollution levels, which will be discussed in further detail later in the article. This had the effect of skewing the yearly average, making it considerably higher than it could have been. Despite this, Richmond was still able to come in in 4125th place out of all cities currently ranked worldwide as of 2020, a respectable placing, indicating that residents here would have access to great levels of air quality through much of the year.
In regards to the main causes of air pollution present in Richmond, instances of forest or wildfires can cause the largest spikes in the US AQI and PM2.5 readings. Whilst there are numerous contributors to the ambient pollution readings, for the pollution readings to spike to some of the heights seen on record, more serious instances such as fires are the only sources possible to produce enough smoke, chemical pollutants and other materials to bring the PM2.5 reading as high as it was towards the end of the year in Richmond. Whilst there may be other factors such as man-made disasters covering fires taking place in factories, businesses or homes, these fall outside of the typical spectrum of polluting events within Richmond, thus making smoke and haze given off from wildfires the greatest contributor to high levels of air pollution.
Moving on to other causes of pollution, namely the ones that are more ambient in nature and cause the PM2.5 levels to become slightly elevated throughout the year would be ones such as fumes and emissions from vehicular usage. Larger freight vehicles such as trucks and lorries would also contribute to the vehicle pollution collective, and both are responsible for churning out many tons of microscopic rubber particles into the air each year. The eventual wear and tear of tire treads lead these particles to settle in bodies of water and soil, contaminating the environment and affecting various ecosystems, as well as lingering in the air and causing damage to those that inhale such particles.
Whilst a majority of the months in Richmond have a very good level of air quality, being amongst some of the best in the world, it still stands to reason that pollution can occur in localized pockets, with clouds of smoke, haze and fine particles building up due to a combination of circumstances, with anthropogenic (human-based) and industrial activity being coupled with the correct meteorological conditions. This can result in situations whereby pollution can accumulate over several days or weeks before it is dispersed by stronger winds, as well as rain being another prevailing factor in cleaning the air of pollutants (although of note is that strong wind remains the best way in which pollution is removed from the air, with rain mostly being able to only tamp down larger particles that permeate the air. Due to their larger size, they present significantly less risk to human health than ultrafine particles do.)
Furthermore, there are certain groups of people within any given population that are far more susceptible to the harmful effects that pollution exposure can bring. These sensitive or at-risk groups include people who are more likely to succumb to the various illnesses brought on by excessive inhalation of chemical compounds, ultrafine particles and other air contaminants. These include groups such as young children or babies, both of whom are going through the vital formative stages of their life and are highly susceptible to changes or damage incurred to the various organ systems throughout their bodies. Disruption to the nervous system can result in stunted growth, a myriad of long-term health issues as well as interference to cognitive development.
Other groups include the elderly, who are also highly susceptible to sustaining damage from inhaling certain pollutants. For this demographic, simple respiratory infections or mild coughs can often develop into more life-threatening issues, particularly during the colder months of the year. Others include those who have a general level of poor health, which can be worsened through certain lifestyle choices such as being sedentary or smoking, as well as those that have preexisting health conditions or compromised immune systems, with these two often going hand in hand with each other. Certain individuals can also have a hypersensitive disposition towards chemical pollutants or fine particles, causing aggravated skin or respiratory reactions (asthma or rash breakouts). As these are some of the more vulnerable groups that should take care, of note is that no individuals amongst a population are truly safe from higher levels of pollution exposure, and even though Richmond maintains a very good level of air quality through much of the year, the possible adverse health effects that can occur during bouts of higher pollution will be discussed.
These are cases such as dry coughs, chest pain and accompanying mild infections of the respiratory tract. These will generally cease or at least lessen in severity when exposure to pollution is halted. Regarding PM2.5 and its danger to the health of the general public, PM2.5 is any material that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, making it roughly 30 times smaller than a human hair in width. This extremely small size gives it the ability to bypass the body's defense system and to penetrate deep into the tissue of the lungs upon inhalation. From there, it can cause inflammation of the lung tissue, along with scarring and irritation of the respiratory tract. Once in the lungs, it can make its way further into the bloodstream due to its size giving it the ability to cross the blood barrier, via the alveoli or small air sacs in the lungs.
Once these fine particles are in the bloodstream, they can cause a whole host of different issues, ranging from damage to blood vessels, as well as heightened risks of cancer throughout the whole body (but in particular affecting the lungs due to many of these particles remaining lodged there). PM2.5 can be comprised of materials such as metals, sulfates, nitrates, soot, dust or finely ground silica and gravel, liquids such as water vapor, along with mold spores, fungi, bacteria and other hazardous inorganic materials or microorganisms. Many of these have carcinogenic properties (particularly soot, which is comprised of black carbon, released in high quantities from forest fires as well as factory boilers and car engines).
Other health issues include skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and atopic dermatitis, which can flare up during bouts of high pollution levels due to fine particles clogging skin pores, as well as certain chemicals causing dermal irritation. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may also present itself, with COPD being an umbrella term that refers to a variety of different respiratory ailments, including pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
In more severe or prolonged cases, issues such as ischemic heart disease may present themselves, whereby the tissue of the heart sustains damage through inadequate oxygen supply. Instances of heart attacks can also go up, along with the chance of strokes, arrhythmias, nausea and headaches, along with death. High exposure to pollution has a direct correlation to increased mortality rates, and as such, during bouts of high pollution, many preventative measures should be employed to avert any potential damage that can be incurred. These measures include avoiding outdoor activities or exercise, along with wearing fine particle filtering masks. Doors and windows should be closed and sealed to prevent indoor air pollution levels from rising excessively, and air purifiers can be run, if available. These will all be shown on the air quality graph on the top of this page, along with the opposite during bouts of cleaner air, encouraging users to engage in outdoor activities. The air quality maps, graphs and forecasts available on this page can also be accessed via the AirVisual app, both of which are encouraged for individuals who wish or may need to keep their pollution level exposure to an absolute minimum.
Despite having great levels of year-round air quality, it can be seen from 2020 readings that there was one month of the year in which the PM2.5 count rose significantly. This was September, which came in with a PM2.5 reading of 28.8 μg/m³, placing Richmond into the 'moderate' air quality rating bracket, the only month of the year to attain such a rating.
Sudden elevations such as these can be a result of the aforementioned fires, or adverse meteorological circumstances coupled with industrial and anthropogenic activity coming together to cause such heightening levels.
Eleven months of the year over 2020 came in within the WHO's target goal of 10 μg/m³ or less, for the most optimal quality of air. Out of all of these, the months of January, May, June and July all came in with the best readings, at 3.7 μg/m³, 3.9 μg/m³, 3.7 μg/m³ and 3.8 μg/m³ respectively. This made January and June tied for the cleanest months of the year with their readings of 3.7 μg/m³, being extremely respectable and having the best quality of air.
Due to the significant level of pollution that was present in September, Richmond showed a worsened level of air pollution as its yearly average from 2019, which had a reading of 5.6 μg/m³, coming in below 2020’s reading of 6.8 μg/m³.
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