Reducing pollutants can improve the quality of the air we breathe.

Air quality is a reference to how much pollution is in the air we breathe. Good air quality indicates cleaner, clearer and less polluted air, which is good for our health and the health of our environment. Poor air quality indicates pollution levels that may be harmful to the health of the population or the environment around us.

Understanding and reducing the sources of air pollutants can help us to improve the quality of the air we breathe.

Outdoor air quality

Outdoor air quality is affected by the types and amount of pollutants released into the air as well as weather conditions such as wind, precipitation, temperature and topography.

Information and resources on wildfire smoke in the summer season

B.C. wildfires are common during the summer months resulting in poorer quality air. While air quality impacts us all, people with chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes, as well as pregnant women, infants, young children, and the elderly, are particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of wildfire smoke and need to take extra care. Wildfires and smoke can become more extreme as the summer climate changes with some smoke episodes lasting for weeks or onward. This can result in longer lasting health effects that are not fully understood. Reducing exposure to wildfire smoke is the best way to protect your health and those around you.

Seek medical attention immediately if someone is experiencing symptoms of shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness, chest pain or heart palpitations due to smoky conditions.

When conditions are smoky people who are exposed to the novel coronavirus may develop COVID-19 and some cases of COVID-19 may become more severe. Those who are vulnerable or who work with vulnerable populations can find advice on minimizing risk through BCCDC resources.

Resources for staying healthy during an air quality advisory:

Steps to protect others during wildfire events or general air quality advisories:

  • Know your risk. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and lung or heart disease. It’s important for these vulnerable people to stay in air conditioned spaces, or facilities with cooler filtered air like an arena or public library.
  • Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity – if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
  • Reduce indoor pollution sources by not smoking or burning materials.
  • Use commercially available high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters which can improve indoor air quality near the device. If you do not have access to these, seek out community spaces with cool air, such as libraries, community centres or shopping malls.
  • Activate your asthma or personal care plan if you have asthma or other chronic illnesses. If you do not have an asthma or personal care plan for air quality events, talk to your care provider.
  • Know where to find information. The air quality impacts of wildfire smoke can change fast. Know how to stay updated on conditions in your area. Smartphone apps such as the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in Canada and SmokeSense in the United States can send alerts when air quality starts to deteriorate.
  • Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Pay attention to local air quality reports. Air quality may be poor even though smoke may not be visible.
  • Reduce outdoor pollution sources by taking transit, carpooling and minimizing the use of diesel powered equipment.
  • Start preparing for next season now. The best way to protect yourself from smoke is to plan well before the smoke arrives.

Health effects of wildfire smoke:

  • Mild respiratory symptoms include a sore throat and shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or a sudden cough or irritated airways, should seek medical attention.

Indoor air quality

The best way to improve indoor air quality is to reduce or eliminate sources of pollutants and provide adequate ventilation. See HealthLink BC's indoor air quality resource for more information. 

Indoor air quality at work

WorkSafeBC is responsible for the safety of all employees within the Province of B.C.

Air quality resources

  • Air Quality Health Index - BC Summary  
    Current air quality health index values and forecast maximums.
  • Air
    Learn how vehicle and industry emissions affect air quality, how B.C. measures air quality, and how we can make healthy air choices.
  • Air quality and health
    Learn about air contaminants and the health effects of poor air quality.