A breath of fresh air
evaluating the risk perception of residents in British Columbia regarding the wildfire smoke inhalation and smoke mitigation methods
Background In recent years, there have been an increasing number of wildfire events. The effects of global climate change play a big role in the severity and length of these wildfire events. Prolonged periods of wildfire smoke in the air can negatively impact health by causing respiratory distress and exacerbating pre-existing conditions. Many regions have implemented smoke mitigation methods like community clean air shelters, but risk perception can influence whether or not these methods are effectively used. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the risk perception of residents in British Columbia regarding wildfire smoke inhalation and smoke mitigation methods. Methods A survey was distributed to residents living in British Columbia to evaluate their risk perception of wildfire smoke and use of smoke mitigation methods. The online survey was created with Survey Monkey, distributed via Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, and took approximately five minutes to complete. The results were collected in Microsoft Excel and analyzed with NCSS statistical software. Results Chi-square tests showed a significant association between gender and the risk perception of inhaling wildfire smoke, exercising outdoors during a smoke event, going outside during an air quality advisory, and the decision to find a clean air space during a smoke event. There were some associations with age and geographical region as well. Results showed that most people practice some form of smoke mitigation, such as staying indoors, seeking refuge in a clean air space, and using masks and/or portable air filters. Conclusions Based on the results, gender has a significant impact on risk perception of wildfire smoke inhalation. Other demographics, such as age, geographical region, education, and ethnicity, did not display many significant associations. This study also identified that participants may have conflicting views about the protectiveness of a surgical/cloth mask during a smoke event. Most participants practiced some form of smoke mitigation method, like staying indoors.