Emergency calls spike as air quality diminishes in Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Halton Hills


Published June 8, 2023 at 11:23 am

Screen capture of calls coming in asking for ambulance assistance.

Calls for assistance are stretching the services of emergency crews as the poor air quality continues to affect residents of Halton Region.

According to sources, paramedics have been responding to numerous calls to assist people who are having difficulty breathing.

“I haven’t really seen anything like this before,” a healthcare worker told inhalton.com. “A lot of people out there are having difficulty and paramedics and other first responders are being kept busy.”

Officials say the wildfires in Quebec and Northern Ontario are to blame for the adverse conditions.

“Another challenging day for our team due to wildfire smoke, a quick look at active calls says it all,” wrote Halton Paramedic Chief Greg Sage on social media channels yesterday (June 7). “Thank you to all of the paramedics working during these unprecedented few days.”

Reports say calls have been consistently coming in during the past 24 hours which has prompted reminders to those with underlying health conditions to take precautions.

“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations,” states a Government of Canada warning and reiterated by Halton’s health department. “Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke. People with lung disease (such as asthma) or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke.”

The government recommends the following:

  • Stop outdoor activities and contact your healthcare provider if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing (including asthma attacks), severe cough, dizziness or chest pains. Stay inside if you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms.
  • Keep your indoor air clean. Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable. Use an air purifier with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in a room where you spend a lot of time. Avoid air purifiers that produce ozone. Check the filter and change it if required. For more information visit https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/using-portable-air-cleaner-wildfire-smoke.html.
  • Take a break from the smoke by temporarily relocating or finding a location in your community with clean, cool air such as a library, shopping mall or community centre. Contact your local health or municipal authorities for more information.
  • If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator type mask (such as a NIOSH certified N95 or equivalent respirator) that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and face, can help reduce your exposure to the fine particles in smoke. These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health. However, respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases in wildfire smoke. It is important to listen to your body and reduce or stop activities if you are experiencing symptoms.
  • Be sure to check on people in your care and those around you who may be more susceptible to smoke.

The healthcare worker said the current situation in Halton should be taken seriously as the effects of the pollution can “sneak up on you” without you realizing that it is causing problems.

“Especially on days that are overcast like today,” the official said. “You can’t see the bad air but you are breathing it in. Be very careful.”

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