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Should residents be wearing a mask as smoky skies persist?

An undeniable layer of haze has settled over much of B.C. as the province continues to battle with another savage wildfire season.

These smoky skies have prompted air quality warnings province-wide, causing concern for those with heart and lung conditions, as well as the elderly and parents of young children.

According to Interior Health, residents have inquired about whether or not they should be wearing “particulate respirators,” otherwise known as face masks.

<who> Photo Credit: File Photo.

However, the health authority continues to inform B.C. residents that these masks are not recommended in most circumstances.

"They don't really have a tight fit, and they increase the resistance to breathing, so you actually have to breath harder to get the air in because of, effectively, that barrier," said Dr. Chris Carlsten, director of the Air Pollution Exposure Laboratory at UBC.

"By doing that, you'll breathe deeper and get things in deeper."

Interior Health has included a list of reasons why residents should avoid face masks:

  • May make it difficult to breathe normally.
  • Can be risky for elderly people and those with existing breathing or heart conditions.
  • Do not fit children’s faces properly.
  • Cannot be worn properly by people with facial hair.
  • Stop working if they get saturated with water or sweat.

The health authority also notes that "surgical and paper masks found at the drug or hardware store do not provide protection from the particles in smoke."

If you are required to wear one, here are some tips for choosing the proper mask:

  • Choose one labeled ‘N95’
  • It should be labeled ‘particulate respirator’
  • Follow the fit instructions
  • Take regular breaks from wearing the mask so your body can recover from the increased breathing effort required
  • Discard used and dirty masks regularly

The immediate forecast is providing little reprieve from the hazy skies and residents are reminded to avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky regions.



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