Overall, the evidence reviews found that that there was a paucity of research that specifically evaluated the efficacy or effectiveness of interventions to reduce adverse health effects of wildfire smoke. However, this is an active area of research with new evidence becoming rapidly available. By combining existing and emerging evidence, BCCDC has been able to make general statements about effectiveness of interventions such as air cleaners and face masks. Public health practitioners can then use the evidence to support their own guidance at the regional or local level. These results were compiled and summarized in the “Guidance for BC Public Health Decision Makers During Smoke Events” which was published in September 2014 and several fact sheets that are updated every year. These documents describe the wildfire smoke hazard and identify the health effects that are associated with wildfire smoke exposure and the populations that are susceptible. They also provide BC-specific guidance about tools for situational awareness (smoke and health surveillance) and summarizes the evidence for effectiveness of intervention measures to protect public health. For example, they explore the use of cleaner air shelters as an adaptation measure to reduce exposure to particulate matter generated by wildfire smoke and provide temporary relief for community members during smoke events. Cleaner air shelters are areas, rooms, or buildings that reduce the indoor impacts of particulate matter generated by wildfire smoke. The objectives of cleaner are shelters are to limit outdoor air entering the indoor environment, avoid creating indoor air pollutants, and to filter indoor air.
In May 2019, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) hosted a Practical Smoke Preparedness Workshop in Prince George. The workshop was aimed at agencies involved in wildfire planning and management, including the Northern Health Authority, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), municipalities, NGOs, and air quality roundtables. Wildfires are predicted to become more frequent and severe as the global climate changes. BC is highly susceptible to wildfire due to historic forest management practices colliding with hotter temperatures, increased drought, and windier summer conditions driven by climate change. One result of these wildfires is the diminished air quality from wildfire smoke, which has physical and mental health impacts for people and communities in BC, particularly for those with chronic health conditions (respiratory or other), the elderly, young children, and pregnant women. Protecting against the health and social impacts of wildfire smoke has become a key priority for many communities. As part of the workshop attendees were provided with a series of fact sheets that included information on the composition and health effects of wildfire smoke, as well as how to prepare for wildfire season, and how to use tools such as portable air cleaners to protect susceptible people. The workshop was part of a larger objective to promote coordination and collaboration amongst health authorities, municipalities, and NGOs in the face of disaster events such as wildfires.