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Monitoring residential woodsmoke in British Columbia communities. Wagstaff, Matthew


Wood burning is a common home heating method in many communities in British Columbia and an important source of fine particulate matter (PM₂.₅) air pollution. During winter months communities impacted by residential woodsmoke experience high concentrations of PM₂.₅, at levels that have been associated with a wide range of health effects. Characterising levels of woodsmoke within and between communities can support air quality management and reduction of exposures. This project tested novel methods to measure the relative levels and spatial variability of residential woodsmoke PM2.5 using fixed and mobile optical instruments. The methods were applied during the winter heating season (January 5th to March 2nd, 2017) across three communities identified to be impacted by residential woodsmoke from fixed-site monitoring data, and three paired communities without routine monitoring. Continuous monitoring was performed for two weeks at fixed monitoring stations in each monitored community to compare the optical instruments with established methods used to measure PM₂.₅ and woodsmoke. This was combined with nightly mobile monitoring using the same optical instruments, alternating between driving routes around the paired monitored and unmonitored communities to create detailed maps describing woodsmoke levels and variability. The nephelometer (Bsp) and aethalometer (delta C) tested at the fixed-site were strongly correlated with conventional methods of measuring PM₂.₅ (beta attenuation monitor and filter-based) and woodsmoke (levoglucosan). Comparisons between the instruments during mobile monitoring clearly identified times and areas where woodsmoke was dominating PM₂.₅ concentrations. Mobile monitoring indicated considerable spatial variation across all communities and identified hotspot areas with consistently elevated concentrations of both PM₂.₅ and woodsmoke. The spatial variance of PM₂.₅ concentrations was significantly greater than the temporal variance during 71% of the runs, demonstrating the importance of understanding spatial variability when monitoring the air quality impacts of woodsmoke. Strong woodsmoke impacts were found in each community. In general, the unmonitored communities had PM₂.₅ concentrations that were similar to or higher than their partnered monitored communities, despite having smaller sizes and populations. The development of this approach allows for detailed and cost-effective characterisation of woodsmoke in monitored and unmonitored communities, which could inform source control efforts in many Canadian communities.

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