Monday, 10 October 2016

The local effects are staggering and patently unfair

We have a very serious wood smoke problem here on Gabriola Island, and there is no doubt that almost 100% of the problem is due to individuals burning wood at home for residential heating. Here's a snapshot from 10:30AM on October 10, 2016, of a new sensor in the Pat Burns area. This level of particulate matter exposure is very hazardous. Note the other readings in the region, especially the sensor only 400m away (as the crow flies) with a reading of 7 at the same time.

Friday, 7 October 2016

We now have 8 sensors on Gabriola Island

As of today, Gabriola Island BC probably has the highest concentration of air quality monitors in the world. Our non-profit uses 8 PurpleAir sensors to provide real time data for an island of 14km by 4km in size with a full time population of around 4000. Why so many? The island has simultaneously some of the world's best and worst air quality, and it can vary from block to block based on the concentration and frequency of residential wood burning activities. To see our sensors go here.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

The anatomy of a health crisis: One night in little Beijing (aka Gabriola Island)

The anatomy of a public health crisis: Wood smoke and its hyper local and rapid degradatory effects on air quality on Canada's west coast.
This could be the title of a scientific paper that I am working on. Here are some snapshots from this evening of how one wood stove in a neighbourhood can harm health. It is a graphic example of how localized the effects are and why more distributed monitoring is needed. Of course, it's useless to monitor unless their are penalties for exposing people to such high risk, day after day, year after year.
This time series is from October 2,2016, and it captures snapshots starting at 17:46 and ending at 20:12
Note the good clean air across all six regional PurpleAir sensors initially, and how degraded the Berry Point sensor on Gabriola Island gets. There are real people living near that sensor who are suffering and likely having their lives shortened.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

How to understand PurpleAir sensor readings

Air pollution has a unique signature depending on the source or sources, location, baseline, magnitude of change, and the mechanisms by which it is produced. Here are some simple ways to identify what's happening when reading PurpleAir monitors like what we have here.
The first image is from a rural community. Note the good quality air with PM2.5 levels between 1 and 2 with a sudden but short-lived spike to 7.5 at 11:15AM. This is a pattern I have seen before and it represents a dirty diesel truck (most likely a water truck) going past the sensor.
The second image represents normal variation on a good air quality day. 
The third image is from a city with the sensor reflecting activity from a local pulp and paper mill and local traffic.

The last image is a rural community snapshot of a good day punctuated by what happens when a wood stove or fireplace is lit nearby. Note the sudden and dramatic increase in pollution and the saw tooth pattern as the stove get to a higher temperature, but when opened and new wood is introduced, the spike occurs again but it's usually not as high as the initial lighting.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Bearing witness to harm by thorough documentation

Documenting wood smoke pollution is an important and necessary step toward increasing awareness of its behaviour and effects.

Taking photographs and measurements of wood smoke pollution is not a crime - even if uninformed local police departments believe that doing so is a kind of criminal harassment.

For example, Metro Vancouver suggests that the following be pursued if wood smoke from a neighbour is having an impact on you:

- Keeping a wood smoke diary to record the frequency of incidents and their impact on you and your family.

- Talking to your neighbours to see if they are affected and willing to make impact statements.

- Taking photographs or video of the smoke, especially if it enters your property.

- Contacting Metro Vancouver as soon as you observe wood smoke so that an Officer might attend the scene.

- Giving permission to Metro Vancouver to set up monitoring equipment on your property.

The hyper local effects of wood smoke

The PurpleAir PM2.5 network shows in real-time exactly the contribution of wood smoke to the air shed. Here's a snapshot of air quality readings from just a moment ago from one of our sensors on Gabriola Island. Note the readings of the other sensors nearby and in Parksville. This is not industrial pollution, vehicles, road dust or anything else except a neighbour near this sensor who continues to burn wood in spite of the evidence of harm. Note the telltale pattern of combustion with cooling and the addition of more wood.

Also, compare this to the air quality reading from the same minute taken at a monitor close to the Harmac Pulp and Paper Mill in Nanaimo.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A week of data from one of our monitors

With the PurpleAir monitors that we now have running in Canada, data can be downloaded and analyzed like this. Here's data from one sensor on Gabriola Island for the first week of September 2016 on a minute by minute basis. This chart is based on 12,748 samples.