Local experts say Air Quality Health Index has limitations

By Greg Fry
September 6, 2017 - 5:22pm

KAMLOOPS — The authors of a new report on air quality are suggesting it may be time to do away with the Air Quality Health Index.

Co-authored by Dr. Robert Schemenauer, an expert in atmospheric physics and Dr. Peter Tsigaris, a professor of economics at Thompson Rivers University, the pair wrote their report on the July and August smoke events in Kamloops.

In it, they note the "limitations of the AQHI" to describe the particulate concentrations in the air, noting reporting on measurements using the PM 2.5 concentrations is more accurate.

For instance, they found the monthly PM 2.5 concentrations in Kamloops in July and August were the highest since records started in 1998.

In July, the monthly concentration at the Federal Bulding was 28.6 micrograms per cubic metre.

In August, the measurement was a whopping 67.9 micrograms per cubic metre — higher than it was in wildfire-ravaged Williams Lake.

In light of the smoky conditions Kamloops experienced this summer, the authors recommend reporting PM 2.5 concentrations directly to residents, recalculating the AQHI using actual hourly data instead of an average of the previous three hours, changing the AQHI equations to give greater weight to the fine particulate concentrations, or reassigning the levels for the various health risk categories.

They recommend B.C.'s Ministry of Environment, Interior Health, the City of Kamloops, along with relevant local groups and individuals could be involved in those discussions.


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