The Air Quality Health Index AQHI and Biomass Smoke in British Columbia
Biomass smoke is an important source of air pollution associated with a range of cardiopulmonary health conditions in British Columbia (BC) and elsewhere. The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is the most widely used tool in Canada to communicate with the public about air pollution. However, its 3-pollutant formulation may not adequately reflect health risks from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) sources such as wildfire, open burning, and residential wood heating. Two studies have been conducted to evaluate the ability of the AQHI and four alternate AQHI-Plus amendments to predict adverse population health effects associated with biomass smoke. Results suggest that a PM2.5-only AQHI-Plus may be better than the 3-pollutant AQHI for communicating about potential respiratory health effects during periods affected by biomass smoke, especially for those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Dr. Sarah Henderson is an environmental engineer and an environmental epidemiologist. As a Senior Scientist at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) she leads a program of applied research and surveillance in support of evidence-based policy for the province. Sarah has expertise in a wide range of environmental health topics, including extreme weather, radon gas, food safety, water quality, and air pollution from multiple sources. She has been studying biomass smoke in British Columbia and around the world for almost 15 years.
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