Status of Fine Particulate Matter in B.C. (2018-2020)
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 2018-2020 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 natural and human activities, including wildfires and emissions from residential woodstoves, open burning, forestry operations, 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) exposures to fine particulate matter can have negative effects on human health.
The map below summarises the assigned management levels for fine particulate matter in B.C.'s air zones, as well as the levels of the pollutant at individual monitoring stations. It features stations with sufficient data to report for the 2018-2020 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 2018-2020 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 Standards for PM2.5 are achieved when annual metrics are 8.8 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) or lower, and the 24-hour metrics are 27 µg/m3 or lower.
- Fine particulate matter levels met both Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards at 49 of the 54 assessed monitoring stations in B.C. There are two metrics for PM2.5: an annual metric and a 24-hour metric (see sidebar). Both metrics are adjusted for transboundary flows and exceptional events such as wildfire. Without adjustment, the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards are exceeded at 33 of the 54 monitoring stations. These are mainly due to the very active fire seasons in 2018 and 2020.
- Fine particulate matter levels met both Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards in four of B.C.'s seven air zones. The Coastal, Georgia Strait, Northeast, and Lower Fraser Valley air zones met both the PM2.5 annual and 24-hour standards. The Central Interior air zone exceeded the PM2.5 24-hour standard at Houston, Valemount, and Vanderhoof, and the PM2.5 annual standard at Quesnel. The Southern Interior air zone exceeeded the PM2.5 annual standard at Grand Forks. There are currently no air monitoring stations in the Northwest air zone.
What is an Air Zone?
British Columbia is divided into seven air zones. These are areas with similar air quality characteristics, issues, and/or trends.