Calgary air quality could reach high risk level today, warns Environment Canada

Smoke from B.C. wildfires will remain over parts of the province until at least Thursday afternoon or evening.

Hazy conditions will persist over western and central Alberta, although thunderstorms might flush out smoke

Smoke from the B.C. wildfires is once again affecting the air quality in Calgary. (Submitted by Tony Wong)

Air quality could reach very high risk levels in parts of Alberta today, as smoke from British Columbia wildfires continues to blanket much of the province.

The air quality health index in Calgary could climb as high as 7 out of 10, which is designated as "high risk," and could hit 8 to 10, or "very high risk," in parts of central and western Alberta.

The thickest smoke will appear in a corridor from Hinton to Edmonton to Red Deer, says Environment Canada.

Hazy conditions will remain over western and central Alberta until at least Thursday afternoon or evening, when thunderstorms may flush out some of the smoke, according to an air quality statement from the agency.

Conditions in the southwest will improve sooner as a low pressure system develops north of Calgary, and southwest winds will help to push smoke to the northeast.

How to minimize health effects

"Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk," Environment Canada said on its website.

Symptoms of exposure to the smoky air include coughing, throat irritation, headaches and shortness of breath. 

"Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties. Find an indoor place that's cool and ventilated," the agency said.

"Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help. If you open the windows, you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn't air-conditioned, consider going to a public place that is air-conditioned."

In general, wearing a mask is not the best way to protect your health during a smoke event, says the joint statement by Environment Canada, Alberta Environment and Parks and Alberta Health.

Masks may lead to a false sense of security, which may encourage increased physical activity and time spent outdoors, meaning increased exposure to smoke. They can also make breathing more difficult, says the government. 

A shot of downtown Calgary from the northwest Monday morning with smoke from the B.C. wildfires. The smoke is expected to waft over Calgary and much of central and southern Alberta for the next few days. (Monty Kruger/CBC)