The thick, black smoke last August that had people in Prince George waking up in the dark put the area among the 10 worst cities in the world that month for air pollution.
That’s according to a new report, released Tuesday, from Greenpeace, sounding the alarm about the high level of air pollution recorded in B.C.’s Interior in 2018.
The “unhealthy” range on the Air Quality Index is 55.5-150.4. Prince George, Quesnel and Williams Lake had readings of 74.2, 72.2 and 67, respectively – the worst in Canada for that month.
The smoke was so thick in Prince George that it blocked the sun, so it appeared as if it were nighttime despite it being 8 a.m. The haze turned the sky strange tones of orange and grey in other communities. Environment Canada had air quality advisories in place for weeks. Seniors and children were advised to stay indoors.
Comparatively speaking, the level of pollution in these regions was roughly five times the 2018 average, prompting the World Health Organization to flag them as well.
“Our province’s vulnerability to forest wildfires has a major impact on the air we all breathe and has serious public health implications,” said Eduardo Sousa, senior campaigner at Greenpeace Canada, in a release. “The report really underscores that we need to act on climate change more robustly for the sake of our well-being and our environment.”
Air pollution is the world’s fourth leading cause of early deaths, the report said, and will take the lives of roughly seven million people in the next year.