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Air quality in Calgary a 'very high risk' due to wildfire smoke


Winds have brought in a considerable amount of smoke to Calgary from area wildfires, pushing the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to its maximum level and forcing Environment Canada to issue an air quality advisory on Tuesday.

While Environment and Climate Change Canada's (ECCC) AQHI had the city's "observed conditions" at only a three, or low risk, at 6 a.m., it increased that rating to its top rating of 10+ by 9 a.m.

This means that anyone who is at risk should "avoid strenuous activities outdoors."

"Children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion," the AQHI's website reads.

Other residents should also consider other precautions, it said.

"Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation."

At 7:41 a.m., the agency issued a special air quality statement because of the deteriorating conditions.

"Smoke is causing or expected to cause poor air quality and reduced visibility," ECCC wrote online. "Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations. Everyone can take action to reduce their exposure to wildfire smoke."

ECCC also said in its advisory that if you have an HVAC system installed in your home, you should use the "highest rated MERV filter for your system."

"(You should) set the fan to recirculate air constantly. You can also use a portable High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air cleaner. Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable."

Anyone who needs to work outside should use a well-fitted respirator mask to "reduce your exposed to fine particles in smoke."

"These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health. However, respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases in wildfire smoke. It is important to listen to your body and reduce or stop activities if you are experiencing symptoms."

Environment Canada had Calgary's AQHI at 3 at 6 a.m., but the conditions are expected to get much worse through the day.

Edmonton's air quality is expected to be even worse on Tuesday – hitting at least a 7, or high risk.

Eighty-seven wildfires continued to burn across northern and central Alberta early Tuesday morning. A little more than a quarter of the blazes were classified as out of control by Alberta Wildfire.

On Monday, Alberta Wildfire officials said the wind could possibly lead to more unpredictable behaviour.

ECCC says air quality is expected to improve on Wednesday.

(With files from CTV Edmonton) Top Stories

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