Air Quality Health Index
The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) helps communicate the real time risk for people, and suggests how people might change their activities based on the outdoor air quality.
The AQHI for the Comox Valley is based on hourly readings at the monitor at Courtenay Elementary.
The AQHI was amended (in BC only*) to better reflect the risk caused by smoke. However, we are still concerned that the AQHI risk messages may not adequately reflect possible risks.
When you are assessing your risk, remember that there is "no safe level of exposure" according to our Medical Health Officer. So think about the AQHI reading, the time you will be exposed, and the activity you will be doing.
We recommend only using the 'current' setting to guide your activities. While the AQHI forecasts have improved in BC, they are often inaccurate.
Also, some areas of the valley will be better or worse than where the monitor is located so take that into consideration when planning your outdoor activities.
* AQHI outside BC
The AQHI has only been improved in BC. AQHI readings in other provinces and territories continue to underplay the role of PM2.5. In fact, the AQHI can be very misleading in smoke-impacted communities outside BC and might lead vulnerable people to think things are okay when fine particulate levels are actually quite high. (Read our critique of the Canada AQHI. Note the discussion of the AQHI+ applies to BC only and is no outdated.).
Download the AQHI app
People can download an app for their smart phone, set up the community you want to monitor, and set alerts for when the AQHI in your area reaches a specified number. For example, "7" is the start of the "High Risk" rating.
The app was created by the Government of Alberta, but many communities across Canada can use it.