Air quality

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The Regional Air Quality Program is a joint initiative between the City of Kelowna, the City of West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, the Regional District of Central Okanagan, the District of Peachland and the District of Lake Country.  

Aligning with B.C. Government initiatives, the program aims to protect and improve air quality in Central Okanagan through education, awareness and pollution prevention. For complete information about the Air Quality Program, visit rdco.com/airquality or contact the Regional Air Quality Coordinator at 250-469-8408 or airquality@kelowna.ca.

View current air quality conditions

Build your own FREE air cleaner workshop.

We appreciate your interest in the DIY Air Cleaner workshop.

  • We're exploring the possibility of funding another workshop in July 2024. Stay tuned for updates!
  • Check the BC Lung Foundation DIY Air Cleaner step-by-step guide in the Resources section below. 
Air quality conditions

The current Central Okanagan Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)  identifies the health risk associated with local air quality conditions. The index corresponds to the recommendations for outdoor activities for those at risk and the general population.

AQHI risk category and recommended activities chart

Source- BC Centre for Disease Control

People with heart or lung conditions, the elderly, children, and pregnant women are considered more sensitive to air pollution. Follow your doctor’s usual advice about exercising and managing your condition.

Different agencies provide information on air quality across the province using various tools. BCCDC_WildFire_FactSheet_SmokeAndAirQuality.pdf 

  1. Download the WeatherCAN app and set up notifications for alerts when the AQHI reaches the level you wish to be notified.  
  2. Subscribe to Air Quality Advisories and Smoky Skies Bulletins  

 

Report air quality concerns

Residential

Please submit an Environmental Concern-Air Quality for residential smoke (indoor appliances), idling vehicles, and local air quality concerns.

Outdoor burning

For outdoor wood burning, please visit our Outdoor burning page

Industrial

For industrial-related concerns about air quality in the Central Okanagan, please get in touch with the Ministry of Environment (EnvironmentalComplaints@gov.bc.ca) or call the 24-hour RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) tip-line (1-877-952-7277).

The Ministry of Environment’s reactive team collects information from all the complaints and uses that data to support planned inspections. Any evidence of ash or smoke leaving the property would be used to strengthen a complaint. If you’re including photos with your complaint, be sure the sun is at your back when the picture is taken.

What to do when a smoky skies advisory is in place

Please check current B.C. air quality advisories.

When an air quality advisory is in place for the Central Okanagan, please check the AQHI frequently, as conditions can change within hours. Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change. Check the BC Wildfire Dashboard Map and smoke forecasts to look for active wildfires and how smoke could affect our region in the next 48 hours. 

If you’re planning a trip within B.C., check the BC Air Quality website before and during your stay to verify air quality conditions and learn how to protect your health. 

Precautions when the smoke levels are high

The most important thing to do is reduce your exposure to smoke. Be sure to drink lots of water, which can help reduce inflammation and avoid being too active.

At home

  • Stay indoors as much as possible
  • Try to keep your indoor environment smoke-free
  • Keep doors, windows, and fireplace dampers shut
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes, burning candles or incense, using wood stoves, and vacuuming during smoky periods (each of these causes unhealthy particulates to circulate in your indoor air)
  • Create a little clean-air shelter in your home by using a portable HEPA air cleaner
  • Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved inside
  • Don't exercise outdoors

At the office

  • Reduce fresh air uptake into homes/offices
  • Buildings such as shopping malls, community centres and libraries also tend to have better indoor air quality because they have larger air filtration systems

Face masks

Older adults and children

  • Take extra precaution with children, who are more susceptible to smoke because their breathing systems are still developing, and they breathe in more air (and therefore more smoke) than adults
  • Older adults are more likely to have heart or lung disease, which can make them more susceptible to smoke. Extra precautions should also be taken during forest fire season

While driving

  • Keep your windows and vents closed while driving
  • Only use air conditioning in the “recirculate” setting
  • Check road and weather conditions, as well as Wildfire Highway Closures
When to consider cancelling an outdoor event

If you’re responsible for children or organizing an outdoor event (coaches, teachers, daycares and sports clubs), use your discretion to decide whether outdoor activities should go as planned, be postponed or cancelled. As smoke conditions may change within hours, you should frequently check Central Okanagan's current air quality conditions and smoke forecasts to make an informed decision.

While no formal provincial guideline exists, some regions consider cancelling events when outdoor PM2.5 concentrations are above 80.5 μm/m3 or the Air Quality Health Index is a Level 9 or higher.

Create cleaner air at home by installing an air purifier

Although we can't get rid of the smoke outdoors, there are a number of options for creating cleaner air at home.

DIY air cleaners

See the BC Lung Foundation's page on DIY air cleaners for step-by-step guides and instructional videos on how to build your own air cleaner unit for less than $100.

Install a HEPA air filtration unit 

Installing a HEPA Filtration unit, also known as an air purifier, in your home can help prevent harmful, smoky air from entering your residence. Air purifiers are portable appliances that filter out tiny particulate matter (PM) - 2.5 microns and smaller. These ultrafine particles are the most common and dangerous component of wildfire smoke.

HEPA air filtration units typically come with replaceable carbon pre-filters that remove volatile organic compounds in wildfire smoke, such as benzene, acrolein and formaldehyde. Pre-filters take care of larger particles, such as pollen, too. And one more bonus: because the units blow out filtered air, they double as fans!

Portable filtration units use small HEPA filters and plug into a standard wall outlet in your home. HEPA air filters work best when all windows and outside doors are closed. Buy a suitable air filtration unit to fit the room you'll use most frequently, such as the bedroom.

Most units list the size of the room they can filter effectively. Others list a clean air delivery rate (CADR), in which case, choose a tobacco smoke CADR that covers at least two-thirds of the room’s area. For example, a 10’ x 12’ room (120 square feet) would require an air cleaner with a tobacco smoke CADR of at least 80. If you buy a portable air cleaner, follow the manufacturer’s specifications to choose the right size for the room you will use it in. 

Central heating or cooling

If you have a central heating and cooling system, the filters that can provide adequate protection from wildfire smoke are the MERV 13 up to HEPA. Be sure to have filter replacements available. During prolonged smoke events, the filter's efficiency could be affected.

Idling Control Bylaw

The Air Quality Program brings awareness about unnecessary idling as one way to tackle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve local air quality and the health of residents in the region. The City of Kelowna is the only city in Central Okanagan with a one-minute Idling Control Bylaw, effective July 25, 2022.

Learn more about idling by checking out this interactive story map.

We hope that with the support of Kelowna residents, we can change our idling behaviour over time.

How much money and fuel can you save?

Natural Resources Canada states the average Canadian idles for eight minutes per day.  If other family members also idle their vehicles, then you are wasting too much fuel as a family! 

Use the Idling fuel and money estimator to save money by changing your idling behaviour. 

Applicability

The Idling Control Bylaw No. 12378 general regulation is:

 "An operator or motor vehicle owner must not cause or permit a motor vehicle to idle for more than one minute (60 seconds)."

  • The idling Control Bylaw does not apply to zero-emissions and partial-emissions vehicles or those with start-stop technology only while the electric motor/generator assists the gas engine. It also does not apply to vehicles when they are in traffic.
  • The Idling Control Bylaw applies to vehicles idling in a parking lot / drop-off zone/street/ driveway/ laneway/ pick-up zone, drive-thru restaurant, etc.

Please review the Idling Control Bylaw No. 12378  for more information.

Report an idling vehicle

If you see vehicles idling excessively, you can  Report an Environmental concern- Air Quality. Please provide the physical address and the license plate where an excess of idling is taking place. 

The Air Quality coordinator will contact businesses/buildings where idling is happening to ask for their kind collaboration and possible signage/decal installation. When possible, provide business names, addresses, websites, or other means of identification.

Education and Enforcement

This bylaw is complaints-based. Education and tips are provided as the first approach. Residents will receive an education letter (first warning) when a physical address is provided.

Second and subsequent complaints will be forwarded to Bylaw enforcement officers. Upon investigation of the complaint, fines of $150 for second and subsequent offences may be issued.

Please look at the Idling complaint process for second complaints and possible enforcement.

Bylaw Notice Enforcement

How you can help?

If you would like to support the City’s efforts to tackle Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and improve local air quality, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Share the Air Quality of Kelowna page, the idling bylaw awareness card, the Anti-idling awareness card and /or the idling fuel and money estimator with your friends and family.
  2. Install decals/signage or have hard copies of the idling awareness cards available to your clients/staff/residents, etc.
  • You can Request Educational Material and signage for your business/building/residential complex/parking lot, etc.  
  • Or through a service request- Environmental concern- Air Quality, residents could provide the location of the businesses/buildings where idling is happening, and we will contact them to ask for their kind collaboration and possible signage/decals installation.
Anti-Idling Material

Postcards, decals and signage are available for free distribution by completing this form:  Anti-Idling Material Request.  

Limited materials are available for free distribution per year. Depending on availability, this will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The material is free of charge and will be mailed within a few weeks. Requestors are responsible for the installation.

  1. CoK Anti-Idling Decals-Recommended for windows, doors, interior walls. No tools are required for installation. Maximum of 10 decals.
  2. CoK Anti-Idling Signage (hard material- Aluminum Composite Panel). They are recommended for outdoor use, walls, fences, posts, etc. Tools are required for installation. Maximum of 5 signs.
  3. CoK Anti-Idling Bylaw awareness cards. Maximum 20 cards.

If you live outside Kelowna, you can still support the region-wide idling awareness efforts. Request RDCO branded material for your business/building/residential complex, parking lot, etc.,  (without a bylaw reference) to bring idling awareness to residents in other Central Okanagan local governments:

  1. RDCO Anti-Idling Decals
  2. RDCO Anti-Idling Signage
  3. RDCO Anti-Idling Awareness cards
FAQ
  • Did you know that idling for more than 10 seconds produces more emissions and wastes more fuel than restarting the engine?
  • Did you know that using reflective windshield sunshades can reduce your vehicle's interior temperature by 11C and reduce the dashboard by 19C?
  • Do you know that you can defrost your windshield without idling?
  1. Buy winter windshield washer fluid (de-icer)
  2. Prepare a homemade de-icer spray
  3. Use ice scrapers
  • Defog your windows faster! Try an anti-fog window treatment or follow these 4 steps:
  1. Heater in full blast
  2.  A/C ON
  3. Inside air Recirculation OFF
  4. Open windows slightly.

For more idling information and Frequently Asked Questions, please visit RDCO-Vehicle Idling

Resource: Idling Reduction Behavioural  Insights

Resources