Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit wants residents to be aware of the health risks due to poor air quality.
Elevated levels of air pollution are expected due to smoke from forest fires burning in Northern Ontario and Quebec. Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health, even at low concentrations.
Mild irritation and discomfort are common and usually disappear when the smoke clears. If you have heart or breathing problems, you may be at higher risk of health issues. Infants, children, older adults, pregnant people, and people who work or exercise outside are also at higher risk of negative health effects caused by forest fires.
Outdoor activities should be stopped, and a healthcare provider contacted if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing (including asthma attacks), severe cough, dizziness, or chest pains. Stay inside if you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms.
Members of the public should check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) for the closest air quality monitoring station (Brantford and Hamilton) to see what the current outdoor air quality is. The AQHI can change quickly, it should be checked regularly. When the Air Quality Health Index is “high” or “very high” consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities.
“I strongly encourage people with asthma, cardiovascular or lung disease, as well as children and elderly people to reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities over the next several days as the particulate matter in the air continues to be elevated,” said Dr. Lock, the Acting Medical Officer of Health for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. “I advise that all community members use the Air Health Quality Index to guide decisions regarding outdoor activities.”
Other ways you can protect yourself and others are to:
- Stay cool and drink lots of water to help your body cope with the smoke.
- Check-in on others who may be more vulnerable to air pollution.
- Prevent outdoor air from getting into your home by:
- Keeping windows and doors closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable
- Installing a high-quality air filter in your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to remove air pollution from incoming air. Set the HVAC system to recirculate the air constantly
- Use a portable High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air cleaner
- Take a break from the smoke at a location in your community where you can find clean, cool air such as a local library.
- For those with lung or heart disease, ensure that you have the medication you need to manage symptoms and prevent exacerbations.
- Monitor outdoor workers regularly for signs or symptoms. If workers are feeling unwell, move inside and contact a health care provider if necessary.
- If you must spend time outdoors, consider wearing a well-fitted respirator-type mask (N95, KN95) that does not allow air to pass through small openings to reduce your exposure to the fine particles in smoke.
- Avoid sources of indoor air pollution:
- Smoking or vaping
- Burning incense and candles
- Frying foods
- Using wood stoves
Additional information can be found on the Government of Canada website.