Yukoners enjoy some of the best air quality in Canada, but a recent study shows there are areas for improvement. Air in nine Whitehorse neighbourhoods was monitored from November 2015 to April 2017 as part of the Whitehorse Air Quality Monitoring Study, in partnership with the City of Whitehorse and Health Canada.
The study found four neighbourhoods (Kopper King, Hidden Valley, Takhini Trailer Park and Riverdale) had higher levels of pollution especially in the winter months. The study suggests the pollution is due to residential wood smoke, which is worse during very cold periods. In areas like valleys, the cold air and humidity can mix with the smoke trapping it closer to the ground, instead of it clearing away in the wind.
Overall, there is no immediate risk to public health. However, wood smoke can irritate lungs and airways, especially in the young and old, cause asthma attacks and worsen chronic lung or heart disease.
The study will continue monitoring in Whitehorse and add a transportable monitor for forest fires, as well as a new monitoring location in Dawson City. The Government of Yukon will work with communities to encourage more efficient wood burning, and will use the additional data to guide the work to improve air quality for years to come.
We are lucky to live in an area with some of Canada’s cleanest air, but even we can do better. Further research, discussion and monitoring will inform government decisions that will work to improve the quality of air Yukoners breathe.
Minister of Environment Pauline Frost
The two biggest contributors to poor air quality in Yukon are wildfire smoke in the summer and residential wood smoke on cold winter days. We can do more to ensure that Yukoners can breathe the cleanest air possible.
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley
The neighbourhoods tested were Kopper King Trailer Park, Range Road (Northland Trailer Park), Porter Creek (Jack Hulland School), Takhini (Geological Survey building), Hillcrest/McIntyre (Elijah Smith School), Hidden Valley, Riverdale, Copper Ridge and downtown Whitehorse (412 Steele Street, the national air quality monitoring station).