Vanderhoof has the worst air in B.C., out of any community, says the B.C. Lung Association.
The B.C. Lung Association released a report June 5 that stated Vanderhoof has 10.9 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic metre. B.C. Lung Association Program Manager Dr. Menn Biagtan has said that these levels are actually dangerous.
“There are groups of people that very highly susceptible to the impacts,” said Dr. Biagtan. “The young children, the elderly, those with pre-existing heart or lung conditions…”
The provincial objective is an annual average of 8.0 micrograms and even that can be deadly according to Biagtan.
“The lower the number the better, there is no safe number,” she said. “Even 8.0 doesn’t guarantee it won’t have any health impacts.”
The culprits are vehicle emissions and biomass burning most of the latter can be attributed to wood stoves. Even Vanderhoof’s topography may be at fault, the fact that it resides in a valley keeps a lot of toxins in the region.
“Something like terrain, there’s nothing that you can do, but something that is man-made… for example in winter time the reading is very high because of the heating season and most people are using wood stoves.”
There is a wood stove exchange program said Biagtan, and a lot of educational resources to avoid giving off so much emissions.
Other options are of course, cycling to work or using some form of public transportation, something that is not an option in Vanderhoof.
In Prince George, the level of fine particulate in the air reached 6.1 micrograms per cubic metre last year, while Kitimat only had 2.2.
Vanderhoof is one of the community’s that has a newer air monitor in place but even so, she said, the results are just too high for Vanderhoof to ignore. “Officials need to do something about it,” she added, and they are.
Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen spoke at council and it was decided that the ministry of environment should be invited to speak at council and explain what can be done.
“We’ve also made an invitation to the ministry of health,” said Thiessen. “We want to address it methodically and very quickly… If it’s dust control then we’ll look at that, if it’s other things then we’re gonna look at that.”
Thiessen addressed possible transit fixes to the pollution, a fix that Dr. Biagtan suggested but one that doesn’t really work in a small town like Vanderhoof.
“We have done a transit study in the past and at that time it didn’t seem economically viable and I think that now for a number of reasons we’re dusting off that transit study again with BC Transit and trying to find some sort of opportunity.”