While everyone is in agreement that smoke from wildfire is an annual health issue for may British Columbians who are classified as high-risk, the government is downplaying calls for personalized air quality measures, noting its preference for a one-size-fits all approach.
Local media has spoken to a number of people with disabilities as well as with the B.C Lung Association, who agree that the annual wildfire smoke should reason enough for the province to classify air purifiers as essential items for those having various health issues.
Gabrielle Peters, disability researcher and policy analyst brought up the matter in 2020 via a letter to various ministries asking them to treat this issue as an extension to B.C’s Medical program.
However, the ministry turned the suggestion down noting that such an arrangement would be too complex and costly. The ministry added that it is currently focused on shopping malls and community centers where everybody has access to relief when air quality worsens.
Peters noted she would like to see hotels with wheelchair-accessible rooms in Interior Health for people to access when their neighborhoods are covered in smoke. She pointed out that unless their safety is threatened by wildfire, people often live in fire zones for days surrounded by absolutely poor-quality air with no where to go because they do not have the money to help them stay elsewhere.
She noted that without access to air purifying devices, high-risk persons with sensitive immunities, heart problems and lung conditions can overwhelm critical acute care services.