Webinars: Air Quality and Health

AQ Webinar

The Canadian Optimized Statistical Smoke Exposure Model (CanOSSEM) uses machine learning to estimate daily PM2.5 exposure across Canada from 2010 to 2022. CanOSSEM generated PM2.5 estimates were used to identify communities disproportionately exposed to biomass smoke from wildfires and residential wood combustion.

We analyzed the number of biomass smoke exposure days (days that exceeded Canadian Ambient Air Quality Objective CAAQS) both during the typical wildfire months as well as the residential wood smoke season. This research lays the groundwork for pilot testing wildfire season AQHI-type forecasts for remote communities located hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest PM2.5 monitoring station and have been disproportionately exposed to elevated levels of biomass smoke in the past.

Join us on December 6th to hear more about the CanOSSEM from Naman Paul, a staff scientist working in Environmental Health Services at BC Centre for Disease Control. You won't want to miss out on this illuminating talk. Register for free below.

View the webinar here.

Questions? Contact Dr. Menn Biagtan, VP: biagtan@bclung.ca or Matthew Wong, Coordinator: mwong@bclung.ca, Health Initiatives & Programs.

June 2020: COVID-19 and Wildfire Smoke: A Potentially Bad Combination

  • Dr. Sarah Henderson, Engineer and Epidemiologist, Sr. Environmental Scientist, BCCDC
  • Dr. Chris Carlsten, Canada Research Chair (Occupational & Environmental Lung Disease), Head, UBC Respiratory Medicine  

Exposure to air pollution can irritate the lungs, cause inflammation, and alter immune function, making it more difficult to fight respiratory infections such as COVID-19. Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of different air pollutants that causes episodes of extremely poor air quality. When conditions are smoky, more people who are exposed to the novel coronavirus may develop COVID-19 and some cases of COVID-19 may become more severe.

  • Dr. Sarah Henderson, Engineer and Epidemiologist, Sr. Environmental Scientist, BCCDC

Biomass smoke is an important source of air pollution associated with a range of cardiopulmonary health conditions in BC and elsewhere. The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is the most widely used tool in Canada to communicate with the public about air pollution. However, its 3-pollutant formulation may not adequately reflect health risks from fine particulate matter (PM2.5) sources such as wildfire, open burning, and residential wood heating. Two studies have been conducted to evaluate the ability of the AQHI and four alternate AQHI-Plus amendments to predict adverse population health effects associated with biomass smoke. Results suggest that a PM2.5-only AQHI-Plus may be better than the 3-pollutant AQHI for communicating about potential respiratory health effects during periods affected by biomass smoke, especially for those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma.

  • Leila Steiner, MA, PhD candidate, Environmental Health & Knowledge Translation Scientist, BCCDC

Personal cultivation as described by the proposed Cannabis Act (2017) will permit adults to cultivate up to four cannabis plants per household. This provision is intended to both promote equity by facilitating access to legal cannabis, particularly when retail outlets are difficult to access, and to undercut the black market. However, indoor cultivation and processing of cannabis may also introduce or exacerbate certain environmental health risks in the home. At the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health, Leila is the lead on the cannabis and environmentla health file and has focused on risk communication and personal cultivation. She is also currently a Bridge Fellow at UBC. Her recent research has included work on endocrine disrupting compounds, food contact materials, and the science-policy interface.

June 2017: Air pollution and childhood asthma

  • Dr. Eric Lavigne, SrE. pidemiologist, Air Health Science Division, Health Canada | Adjunct Professor,  School of Epidemiology, Public Health and Preventive Medicine, University of Ottawa

Prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution has been associated with development of childhood asthma; however, less is known regarding the potential modifying factors in this association. This presentation will go through the literature on this issue and will present findings from a retrospective cohort study conducted in Ontario, Canada. This study examined effect modification by maternal asthma, as well as infant sex, birth outcomes and maternal place of residence in the association between prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution and development of childhood asthma.

January 2017: Radon: What you should know

  • Winnie Cheng, Regional Radiation Specialist, Health Canada 

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas formed from the decay of uranium in soil and rocks. Long-term exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. An estimated 220 radon-induced lung cancer deaths occur every year in B.C. Learning Objectives: What is radon, what are the health effects of radon? and how can we test and mitigate for radon?

November 2016: Air Pollution: What you should know

  • Dr, Paula Smith,  Air Quality Health Specialist Health Canada, Government of Canada

Air Pollution is often thought of as an ecological crisis and the health effects associated with exposure to air quality can easily be overlooked.  However, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2016 World Energy Outlook report, “6.5 million deaths are attributed each year to poor air quality, making this the world’s fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking.  Learning Objectives:  What constitutes air pollution, how air pollution causes millions of early deaths each year and what resources are available to help patients better manage the health risks associated with exposure to air pollution?

September 14, 2015: Health risk with oil and gas activity
Senior Environmental Health Scientist | VP Western Region, Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc. 
BC’s Ministry of Health commissioned an assessment of the potential health risks associated with oil and gas activity across northeastern BC. The project had multiple phases, including the development of: a direction document; full literature review of the epidemiology of oil and gas development and health impacts across the globe; screening level risk assessment (SLRA) to determine the methods and extent of the detailed HHRA; the detailed HHRA itself; a critical review of the regulatory framework with respect to the oil and gas industry in BC; and, a recommendations report. Based on the findings of the HHRA and the review of the regulatory framework, Intrinsik put 14 recommendations to the Province regarding the suitability of existing legislation in BC and the need for a number of changes to ensure adequate protection of public health. The approach and key findings of the HHRA will be discussed in the presentation, in addition to the final recommendations that evolved from the study.  For almost 20 years Mr. Koppe has served as the technical lead on many of Intrinsik’s large air quality related health risk assessments in western Canada. As part of this work, Mr. Koppe continues to be involved in all aspects of health risk assessments, including: toxicity and exposure assessments, uncertainty analysis, risk characterization and risk management. 
June 2, 2015: Forest fire smoke and respiratory health
Environmental Health Scientist, BC Centre for Disease Control | PhD candidate, UBC School of Population and Public Health
Forest fire smoke causes some of the worst air quality that most British Columbians will ever experience, and it affects the health of entire populations when episodes occur. Since the extreme season of 2003 this has been an active area of research in the province. This presentation summarized the published literature to date, provided new information on emerging evidence, and described novel work that is currently underway at the BC Centre for Disease Control. Angela Yao completed her master's degree in environmental health at UBC in 2012, with a thesis evaluating the public health utility of a forest fire smoke exposure forecasting system. Since graduation, she has been working at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control on multiple studies assessing forest fire smoke exposure and its public health effects, as well as the development of a public health surveillance system. She has returned to the School of Population and Public Health at UBC to pursue her PhD since 2014, and continued to study the very acute cardiopulmonary effects from sub-daily exposure to forest fire smoke.
January 15, 2014: How residential woodsmoke impacts air quality in BC communities
Occupational and Environmental Hygiene Program, UBC School of Population and Public Health |Elizabeth Henry Scholarship Recipient for Environmental Health Research  
How alternative monitoring methods can help fill gaps in the ability of the current monitoring network to understand spatial variability and source (wood smoke) contrubutions within select B.C. communities

Page Last Updated: 06/12/2023