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B.C. fires cause air quality issues for western Canada races

Air quality concerns due to B.C. fires continue at races in western Canada, though most are going ahead as planned

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Air quality from the wildfires burning in B.C. was a factor for runners at various races in western Canada over the weekend. It was enough of a concern that race organizers at the Servus Edmonton Marathon decided to reschedule the ABC Kids Race from Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning, when the air quality was forecasted to be better. The marathon also allowed concerned runners to switch their registration to shorter distance races. And two triathlons in B.C.’s central Okanagan were cancelled (the Super League in Penticton and the Kelowna Apple Triathlon), according to today’s Globe and Mail. 

RELATED: Running in smoky conditions

A province-wide state of emergency was declared in B.C. on August 15, and approximately 6,000 people have been advised to evacuate. Though air quality is believed to be affected as far east as Manitoba, one report claims that conditions on the prairies are improving due to the wind having shifted and blown much of the ash and particulate matter south into the U.S.



Poor air quality on the Lower Mainland, however, does not appear to have dampened the enthusiasm of those racing the Squamish 50 races, which took place over the weekend, though it was a concern, with race organizers urging runners to be aware of air quality reports.

To put the current situation in perspective, consider the 2014 Beijing Marathon, when tens of thousands of runners raced (many of them sporting surgical masks or respirators) despite the city’s outrageously polluted air. 

RELATED: Ew! Delhi Half-Marathon held in “very unhealthy” smoggy conditions

The online air quality tracker Breezometer, which shows air quality on a scale of 0 (best) to 100 (worst), currently shows Kelowna at 19, Edmonton at 59, Saskatoon at 37, and Toronto at 67. For comparison’s sake, it shows Mumbai at 23 (not much higher than Kelowna), and Beijing at 35 (only slightly worse than Saskatoon).