03/06/2013 07:50 EST | Updated 05/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Dust Advisory Issued During Prince George Air Quality Forum

A dust advisory has been issued for Prince George, a pulp and saw mill city in northern British Columbia.

The Ministry of Environment said it expected the dust -- described as high levels of fine particulates in the air -- would decrease throughout the day, but rise again in the evening. It said the high levels are mainly due to road dust, lights winds and dry weather.

The ministry also issued a road dust advisory that is expected to last until the weekend for the nearby towns of Houston, Burns Lake, and Smithers. Those with heart or lung conditions should stay indoors as much as possible in order to limit their exposure to the dust.

The warnings came during a two-day air quality expert forum in Prince George where air quality managers from many B.C. cities and towns gathered to discuss clean air strategies.

Dr. Marie Hay, president of the People's Action Committee for Healthy Air (PACHA), says the air quality in Prince George is often poor because of the city's geography and the presence of industry like pulp mills.

"I think that the air quality in Prince George leaves a lot to be desired," she said.

Hay said she is attending the two-day North Central Clean Air Forum to hear the latest research on how even moderate levels of bad air affect long-term health.

"Certainly, the fine particulates cause heart disease and contribute to chronic lung disease. They aggravate asthma [and] chronic sinusitis," she said.

"What are the long term outlooks for people who have to live in that? And how do we encourage industry to keep doing their part? But also: How can we educate physicians, and parents and citizens about the air, and air quality?"

With industrial development expected to ramp up throughout the north, Hay said she wants to learn how individuals and industry can work even better together to improve air quality.

"I think, definitely, industry has started to become good neighbours to the citizens who live in Prince George. But we still have a long, long way to go," Hay said.

The forum is being held on Wednesday and Thursday at the Prince George Civic Centre. Members of the public are invited to bring their questions and ideas to a public session at 6 p.m. PT on Wednesday.

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