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| 17 US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Kamloops air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value
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|Saturday, Mar 2
Good 20 AQI US
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Good 21 AQI US
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Good 7 AQI US
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Good 15 AQI US
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Good 8 AQI US
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Kamloops is a city located in the south-central region of British Columbia, the westernmost province of Canada. In regards to its air quality, Kamloops has seen some great levels of air cleanliness in years past and continues to do so in more current times. However, in July of 2021, large elevations in the US AQI level were seen, due to the occurrence of wildfires in the vicinity. Whilst Kamloops maintains a great level of air quality throughout much of the year, there are consistent or ambient sources of pollution present that drive up the pollution levels slightly. These causes will be discussed in further detail in the following question. To compound the situation further, the wildfires can cause the pollution readings to go up to levels that present serious health risks for all members of the population. Preventative measures and what actions to take are also discussed further in the article, as well as under the health recommendations section at the top of this page.
In late July of 2021, Kamloops presented with a US AQI reading of 160. This placed it into the 'unhealthy' rating bracket, which requires a US AQI reading of anywhere between 151 to 200 to be classified as such. This rating is color-coded as red, as with each pollution rating there is a related color code, with the more dangerous levels of air pollution carrying with them darker colors such as red, purple and maroon, for ease of use and navigation when referring to the air quality maps and forecasts.
During the time in which this US AQI reading was taken, the PM2.5 concentration was recorded as being over 7 times higher than the WHO's recommendation exposure. Other readings taken throughout July indicate that the higher levels of pollution were consistent throughout the month, except for a few days whereby the readings fell significantly. In closing, Kamloops is a city with a great quality of air, but due to the occurrence of wildfires, can also have extremely high pollution levels, which heavily skewed the pollution readings for July in 2021.
Besides wildfires causing huge elevations in pollution readings, other sources of air pollution present in Kamloops include ones such as fumes and emissions from vehicles. Factories, power plants and industrial areas that utilize fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and diesel can also give out their own forms of pollution. Certain months of the year may drive these emissions up significantly, due to colder weather causing increased demand for energy to heat both homes and businesses. Whilst these are some of the more ambient pollution causes present in Kamloops, it stands to reason that the city still maintains a very positive level of air quality, and the huge leaps in pollution seen during certain times of the year are predominantly caused by the advent of forest fires.
Some of the main pollutants found in the atmosphere in Kamloops would be the ones that go into calculating the US AQI level. This number is aggregated from the volumes of these main pollutants, and they include ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and the two main forms of particle pollution, PM10 and PM2.5. Out of these two particles, PM2.5 is the far more dangerous of the two, being ultrafine in size and consisting of materials such as sulfates, metals, silica, soot, dust and water vapor, along with organic matter such as mold spores (although these can also fall into the larger sized PM10 bracket).
Other pollutants that may be found during episodes of higher US AQI and PM2.5 readings would be one such as black carbon and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Both of these are formed from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, as well as organic material, and as such can come from sources such as fires, car engines and factory boilers. Other materials that may be released or leaked from fires, industrial sites or factories are ones such as mercury, lead and cadmium, along with dioxins and furans.
Health issues that may arise when pollution exposure in Kamloops is excessive include a variety of different pulmonary or cardiac ailments. Superficial problems such as chest pain, dry coughs, nausea and headaches, irritation to exposed mucous membranes (eyes, ears, nose and mouth) as well as aggravation of skin conditions may all occur when individuals are exposed to certain chemical compounds, in particular when one has a sensitive disposition towards any given type of pollutant. Typically, these will cease once exposure is lessened or halted outright, although, amongst vulnerable portions of the population, mild respiratory issues may persist and progress into far more adverse health problems.
These ones would fall under the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) bracket and include among them illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia and emphysema. Whilst higher levels of pollution exposure are far more likely to cause such health symptoms, it must be noted that any level of pollution present in the air has the chance to cause problems, although the severity and likelihood go up along with the PM2.5 or US AQI level.
Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and severe acne can occur as a direct result of pollution exposure, with many chemicals irritating the skin or fine particles causing rashes to breakout and skin pores to become blocked. Other conditions include ones such as increased rates of cancer, which can happen due to the carcinogenic nature of many pollutants found in the air as a by-product of the combustion of many materials. As PM2.5 is extremely small in size, it can penetrate deep into the tissue of the lungs, bypassing the body’s natural defense barriers, and causing inflammation to the lung tissue, as well as irritation or infections of the respiratory tract.
As PM2.5 is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter (approximately 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair), also having the ability to go down to sizes many microns smaller, it can pass into the bloodstream via the alveoli or small air sacs in the lungs. Once in the bloodstream, all manner of issues can be incurred, with blood vessels becoming damaged, and the migration of these harmful particles to the furthest reaches of the body causing alterations to the nervous system and extensive damage to different organs.
Cases of heart attacks, ischemic heart disease, strokes, arrhythmias and even death can occur as a direct result of pollution exposure, with many people across Canada dying prematurely each year due to excessive pollution exposure, along with many other debilitating afflictions occurring that will generally lower the quality of an individual’s life. Ischemic heart disease occurs when the tissue of the heart fails to receive enough oxygen, causing damage to the tissue which in turn can lead to a whole host of further issues. As such, the need to take preventative measures seriously during spells of higher pollution becomes all the more important.
Air quality forecasts or live updates can be followed via the maps and graphs available on this page, as well as by using the AirVisual app. Pollution levels can be subject to change and thus for those who belong to at-risk or vulnerable demographics, frequent checking of PM2.5 levels can be of great assistance. When highly polluting events such as wildfires occur, measures such as the sealing of doors and windows can aid greatly in preventing indoor pollution levels from rising. Indoor air purifiers can also be run, if available, which can also assist in reducing the number of hazardous particles or contaminants in one’s household. The avoidance of exercise or other strenuous activities is advised, along with avoiding outdoor movement unless necessary (most pertinent during the highest spells of air pollution). The wearing of fine particle filtering masks of higher quality can also be utilized to reduce the damaging effects of pollution exposure for those that need to travel or move around during bouts of higher pollution. These are a few examples of the health effects that can be incurred, along with some of the preventative measures that can be utilized to reduce the likelihood of them occurring, along with their severity.
Observing the PM2.5 data collected throughout 2020, one can see when the city had its highest concentrations of pollution. Whilst they may not be indicative of every year due to a variety of different circumstances, such as unusual weather occurrences, wildfires and other such events, there will be a general pattern seen each year due to a city’s infrastructure, population habits, as well as seasonal aspects such as when wildfires are most likely to occur. Hotter months can also bring with them higher concentrations of ozone, due to high levels of sunlight being optimal conditions for the formation of this secondary pollutant, which forms when the various oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and other gases or pollutants are exposed to high enough levels of solar radiation. This forces a chemical reaction to take place, which can create ozone, a chemical compound that is of significant concern throughout both Canada and the United States. Higher levels of exposure can cause inflammation to the lining of the lungs, as well as other various unpleasant effects such as nausea and headaches, as well as the triggering of pre-existing conditions such as asthma.
Referring back to when the pollution levels were at their highest in Kamloops over the course of 2020 (which will be referenced in the form of PM2.5, instead of using US AQI readings), the city itself came in with a yearly PM2.5 average of 5.8 μg/m³. This is a very optimal reading, placing it not only in 4392nd place out of all cities currently ranked worldwide, but also well within the World Health Organization's (WHO's) target goal of 10 μg/m³ or less, for the most optimal quality of air.
Whilst this indeed indicates that Kamloops has a very good level of air quality, free from haze, smoke and clouds of hazardous particles for much of the year, there are still times when the PM2.5 count can rise to higher numbers, bring with them the numerous health risks that have been mentioned.
The latter part of the year is when Kamloops presented with higher readings of PM2.5, and although eleven months out of the entire year fell within the WHO's target reading, the PM2.5 figures from September through to the end of the year were still somewhat elevated, with September in particular having the highest reading and the only month to elevate itself outside of the WHO's target goal. Their respective readings (from September to December) were 15 μg/m³, 9.5 μg/m³, 6.9 μg/m³ and 7 μg/m³.
This placed September into the 'moderate' air quality rating bracket, which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. This indicated that September saw possible wildfires in the vicinity of Kamloops. Such fires can cause smoke clouds that can either pollute the cities closest to them, but also have the ability to contaminate the air of other locations many miles away, with winds blowing the clouds of chemical compounds and fine particles great distances away from their original site. Months such as this are when those with pre-existing health conditions or compromised immune systems should take particular care to safeguard themselves from pollution exposure, as readings can spike rapidly over a single day.
Whilst September took first place for the year of 2020 as the most polluted month, the ones following it also had mildly elevated readings, indicating that the air still had mild contamination, although far less severe in nature.
In contrast to the previous question, Kamloops had its most optimal level of air cleanliness from the months of January through to August, with the exception of February which showed mild elevations in its PM2.5 count (coming in at a mildly higher reading of 6.6 μg/m³, not heavily polluted by any means but still higher than surrounding months).
The respective readings from January through to August, omitting February were 4.3 μg/m³, 3.4 μg/m³, 3 μg/m³, 2.6 μg/m³, 3.1 μg/m³ and 4.3 μg/m³ for both the months of July and August. This showed the March through to June had even more optimal levels of air quality, being close to perfect. The air at these times would be free from many fine particles, smog and clouds of smoke or other contaminating elements. May had the cleanest reading of the year at 2.6 μg/m³, being approximately over five times lower than the highest reading of the year.
4 Data sources