Status of Fine Particulate Matter in B.C. (2016-2018)
British Columbia operates a network of air monitoring stations that measure fine particulate matter and other air pollutants. This indicator reports on the concentration of fine particulate matter from 2016-2018 and compares it to the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
- Fine particulate matter is an air pollutant. Solid or liquid particles floating in the air are called particulate matter. The smallest of these particles—those that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter, or less than 1/20th the width of a human hair—are called fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Fine particulate matter comes from many natural and human activities, including wildfires and emissions from prescribed burning, forestry operations, residential woodstoves, and transportation.1
- Fine particulate matter can be harmful to humans. Exposure to fine particulate matter has been associated with several serious health effects including heart and lung disease.1 Both short-term (24-hour) and longer-term (a year or more) exposure to fine particulate matter can have negative effects on human health.
The map below summarises Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard achievement status for fine particulate matter in B.C. air zones, as well as both the annual and 24-hour PM2.5 levels at individual monitoring stations. Summaries are given for each monitoring station where sufficient data was available for the 2016-2018 reporting period.
Tip: Click or tap on an air zone or monitoring station to see details on the status of fine particulate matter levels for the 2016-2018 reporting period.
Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5): Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard
PM2.5 levels are calculated using two statistical forms called the annual and the 24-hour metrics. The Canadian Ambient Air Quality Annual Standard for PM2.5 is achieved when annual levels are 10.0 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) or lower. The 24-hour Standard is achieved when 24-hour levels are 28 µg/m3 or lower.
- Fine particulate matter levels met both Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards at 42 percent of assessed monitoring stations in B.C. There are two standards for PM2.5: an annual standard and a 24-hour standard (see sidebar). The annual standard was met at 41 of the 52 stations (79%) for which valid data was obtained, while the 24-hour standard was met at 22 of the 52 stations (42%) with sufficient data for analysis.
- Fine particulate matter levels met both Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards in two of B.C.'s seven air zones. The Coastal, Northeast, Lower Fraser Valley, and Georgia Strait air zones met the PM2.5 annual standard, while the Central Interior and Southern Interior air zones exceeded it. The Coastal and Northeast air zones met the PM2.5 24-hour standard, while the Central Interior, Southern Interior, Lower Fraser Valley, and Georgia Strait air zones exceeded it. Many of the exceedances were due to the influence of smoke from wildfires, especially during the summers of 2017 and 2018. Currently, there are no air monitoring stations in the Northwest air zone.
What is an Air Zone?
British Columbia is divided up into seven air zones, which are areas that typically exhibit similar air quality characteristics, issues, and trends.