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In a bold move, BC Greens argue that breathing clean air is good for you 

April 24, 2024
   5 min read
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For immediate release

April 24, 2024

VICTORIA, B.C. – Today, the BC Green Caucus introduced the Clean Air Act, 2024 to ensure cleaner air across the province.

Air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to human health. Exposure to wildfire smoke is responsible for upwards of 2,500 premature deaths every year in Canada, and as much as $20 billion in health care costs. There are two seasons in BC now – flu season and wildfire season. The Province has a responsibility to keep people safe both indoors and out.

“Every British Columbian deserves to breathe clean air,” said Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the BC Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley. “Air quality is essential for our health and well-being, impacting everything from home comfort to workplace productivity. Poor air quality can lead to a range of health issues, including respiratory problems and cognitive impairments, which can affect our daily performance and quality of life”

This bill proposes that both indoor and outdoor environments be monitored and regulated for air quality, especially in places frequented by vulnerable groups such as children, students, and the elderly. Employers and operators will need to adhere to these new regulations to ensure safe air quality standards are met, enhancing public health and safety across the province.

With the dual challenges of COVID-19 and worsening wildfire smoke, it’s critical we enhance air quality protections. By establishing strict indoor standards and protecting our outdoor workers, the BC Government can lead on ensuring the health and safety of all British Columbians before conditions deteriorate further.

“We need the provincial government to take air quality and the impacts of air pollution seriously. This bill is an important step towards protecting the health of British Columbians,” said MLA Furstenau. 

Background:

  • In March 2023, NDP MPPs in Ontario tabled a Private Member’s Bill to create indoor clean air standards. This bill would convene an Advisory Committee on clean air that would advise the government on ventilation, filtration, and other methods to reduce airborne transmission of diseases. The work would focus on saving lives due to the provincial government “irresponsibly [removing] mandatory masking in public indoor spaces.”
  • In April, 2023 a motion to debate the importance of indoor air standards was led by a Liberal MLA from New Brunswick. The motion included creating a plan to monitor, report, and improve air quality systems to mitigate the risks of airborne illnesses.
  • Outdoor air is regulated by the provincial government through the Environmental Management Act and the Waste Discharge Regulation. The provincial government has the authority to set outdoor air quality standards and guidelines, and municipal and regional governments have the authority to create bylaws for outdoor air. Indoor air quality, however, is largely unregulated.
  • According to Health Canada, indoor air pollution can be up to five times worse than outdoor air pollution. Vancouver Coastal Health estimates that air pollution costs BC at minimum $14 billion in health costs every year.

Key components of the Clean Air Act:

  • Indoor air quality monitoring: Operators of designated settings, including educational institutions and healthcare facilities, are required to install and maintain carbon dioxide monitors to continuously assess the air quality. This proactive measure ensures that any potential air quality issues can be addressed swiftly to protect public health.
  • Development of a clean air plan: The Act mandates the creation of a comprehensive Clean Air Plan to establish stringent standards for indoor air quality. This plan will outline necessary actions for assessing and improving air conditions, and detail the steps to be taken should air quality not meet the set standards.
  • Enhanced outdoor air quality standards for workplaces: New regulations will be introduced to manage air quality in outdoor work environments, particularly in response to wildfire smoke events. These regulations will focus on reducing health risks associated with poor air quality, including specifying exposure limits and required protective measures, when necessary.
  • Integration with existing health regulations: The Clean Air Act will align with the Public Health Act to ensure that the new standards are enforceable, with clear implications for non-compliance.
  • WorkSafeBC’s role in enforcement: WorkSafeBC will be responsible for establishing workplace standards for outdoor work in relation to outdoor air quality. WorkSafeBC will be required to consult with employers and health authorities when making regulations.

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Media contacts
JoJo Beattie   
Press Secretary
B.C. Green Caucus
+1 250-882-6187 | jojo.beattie@leg.bc.ca

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