EDITORIAL: The air that we breathe

One downside of living in this gorgeous place known as the Comox Valley is a shortage of high-paying jobs.

A huge upside is that a lack of industry means our water and air are spared the pollution endured by people in other communities.

So it was a surprise when the Ministry of Environment issued an air-quality advisory last Wednesday for our area.

The advisory, issued in conjunction with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, was triggered by high concentrations of fine particulates in the air we breathe.

In a press release, the ministry and VIHA cautioned people with chronic underlying medical conditions to postpone strenuous exercise while the advisory lasted. Staying indoors helps to reduce fine particulate exposure, added the release, which warned that exposure to a high concentration of fine particulates is especially a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

Authorities banned open burning within 15 kilometres of Courtenay City Hall for two days, a restriction that disappeared the next day when the advisory was lifted due to improving weather conditions.

Fog last week contributed to the advisory by trapping tiny particles in the air when they would otherwise fall to the ground or be dispersed by wind.

People using woodstoves is another important source of particulates in the air, especially when it’s foggy. Considering the cost of heating these days, it’s hard to blame anyone for burning wood to stay warm at home during the winter.

Blaming motorists for excessively idling their engines is another matter.

Nobody likes to be cold, but how long do you really have to warm up your car before driving away — especially in our relatively balmy climate? If you’re in a slow-moving fast-food drive-thru, do you have to run your engine the whole time?

Let’s do what we can to keep our air fit to breathe, especially for the most vulnerable among us.

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Real-time air quality information from B.C. communities can be found at www.bcairquality.ca.


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