Princeton has dangerously high levels of airborne material: Air Quality Coalition

The air around Princeton has the highest levels of dangerous airborne material in the Okanagan, according to the Air Quality Coalition.

The air around Princeton had dangerously high levels of airborne material this winter that was dangerous to human health, according to the Princeton Air Quality Coalition.

The Town of Princeton monitored the level of small particulate matter in the Princeton-area in August and found “dangerously high” levels of PM2.5, an airborne material measuring 2.5 microns or smaller and considered to be the most dangerous to human health, said Ed Staples from the Air Quality Coalition.

The Ministry of Environment found the air in Princeton has the highest amounts of PM2.5 in the Thompson and Okanagan regions, especially in the winer, Staples said.

Fine particles like the ones the Air Quality Coalition is talking about come from wood combustion, industry and diesel buses and trucks.

“It is clear that Princeton has a problem. During the cold season – usually taken as October to March – the quality of the air in our valley is very poor,” Staples said.

“Many diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, can be attributed to degraded air quality.”

The particles are so small they can easily reach the deepest recesses of the lungs and stay there, he added.

Coun. Kim Maynard said he was surprised at these results because many people think of Princeton as a pristine area.

But Ralph Adams, air quality meteorologist with the Ministry of Environment, said the poorest air quality almost always occurs in valley communities, not necessarily large cities.

The problem is the worst in the winter when there is poor dispersion in vallies and more people use their wood stoves, he added.

The elderly, people with preexisting heart and lung disease or those with asthma and children are most at risk from exposure.

Staples would like people to take advantage of the wood stove exchange program in Princeton that runs until the end of April.

A public forum on air quality will be held at the Riverside Centre at 7 p.m. May 8.