The wind that has carried smoke from the wildfires in Northern and Central Alberta has caused poor air quality and reduced visibility in Airdrie and the surrounding areas.

Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a special air quality statement on Tuesday morning, warning the public that wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations.

"People with lung disease (such as asthma) or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke. Speak with your health care provider about developing a management plan for wildfire smoke events and maintaining a supply of necessary medications at home and always carrying these medications with you during wildfire season," the statement read.

Residents are also urged to stop or reduce their activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or they in their care feel unwell.

"Contact your health care provider or local health authority if you develop severe symptoms or need advice. People respond differently to smoke. Mild irritation and discomfort are common and usually disappear when the smoke clears. Drinking lots of water can help your body cope with the smoke."

The statement also advised that if you have an HVAC system in your home, use the highest-rated MERV filter for your system (ideally rated 13 or higher) and 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. Take a break from the smoke at a location in your community where you can find clean, cool air.

If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator-type mask (such as a NIOSH-certified N95 or equivalent respirator) that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and face, can help reduce your exposure to the 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. Be sure to check on people in your care and those around you who may be more susceptible to smoke. Reduce sources of indoor air pollution."

If you can, avoid smoking or vaping indoors, burning incense and candles, frying foods, using wood stoves and vacuuming. Dust on indoor surfaces can be removed by wiping and wet mopping during a pollution episode.

On Tuesday morning, Airdrie's health quality index was rated at 4 - meaning there was a moderate risk to health.

Air quality conditions are expected to improve on Wednesday.

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