Outdoor air quality
The quality of the air we breathe outdoors can affect our health in numerous ways. When pollutants are present in high concentrations, they can lead to respiratory concerns and aggravate existing health conditions for those who are most at risk. Learn more about outdoor air pollutants, where to find information on air quality monitoring data and air quality advisories, and which groups of people are most at risk when poor air quality is present.
Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)
The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a tool designed to help people understand what the air quality around you means to your health. The AQHI uses a scale to illustrate the health risk associated with the air quality. If the AQHI index has increased to 7 (high health risk), it is usually because of high concentration of very fine smoke particles (PM2.5) in the community.
View the latest information on the AQHI across the province on the BC Air Quality Index map
Find the latest forecast AQHI values and forecasts for BC on Air Quality Health Index – BC Air Quality
Air Quality Advisories and Bulletins
Within Metro Vancouver an Air Quality Advisory may be issued when:
- air quality deteriorates or is expected to deteriorate;
- air pollution approaches or exceeds safe limits; or
- poor air quality is expected to continue or worsen
The Smoky Skies Bulletin is issued by BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to communicate the rapidly changing nature of wildfire smoke.
Specific guidance for what to do during a wildfire smoke episode can be found on the wildfire smoke page.
Health tips during an air quality advisory
- Exposure to poor air quality is particularly a concern for vulnerable people such as older adults, pregnant people, infants, those who have underlying medical conditions such as lung or heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and people with respiratory infections. It’s important for vulnerable people to stay in air-conditioned spaces or facilities with cooler filtered air, such as an arena or public library.
- Use good judgement if deciding to take part in outdoor physical activity – if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
- Mild respiratory symptoms related to poor air quality can include a sore throat, cough, shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort should consider seeking medical attention from their health care provider.