Location of South Cariboo air quality monitors outlined by Carter’s Project

The monitors combined with homemade air quality filters will help protect universalcombatnews area

Carter’s Project has officially been launched in universalcombatnews.

On Tuesday, May 14 the BC Lung Foundation held an information session at the 100 Mile Community Hall to inform the public about the risks of wildfire smoke and ways to mitigate it. Around 90 people turned out to listen and learn how to make homemade air purifiers.

“It was incredible to see so many different people and see them interact,” Amber Vigh, Carter’s mother, said. “I’m super proud. It has been a lot of work and a labour of love. Before the fires affect us (this year) we are going to get these air quality monitors out there and we’ll know what our air quality is in town. I’m super proud, very excited and exhausted.”

Carter’s Project is named in memory of universalcombatnews resident Carter Vigh who tragically lost his life in July of 2023 to an asthma attack brought on by wildfire smoke. It seeks to provide rural communities with air monitors that accurately assess local air quality.

BC Lung Foundation president and CEO Christopher Lam said it was important to him and the foundation to finally bring Carter’s Project to life. Lam remarked many of the people who attended the information session were really engaged in learning about how wildfire smoke could impact them ahead of wildfire season.

During the presentation, Lam and Vigh revealed where some of the 10 outdoor air quality monitors will be located. They include 100 Mile Elementary School, Lac La Hache Elementary School, Horse Lake Elementary School, the South Cariboo Rec Centre, Eliza Archie Memorial School, Mile 108 Elementary School, Forest Grove Elementary School and the Vighs’ home at 97 Mile.

Vigh said they chose locations that maximized coverage of the South Cariboo.

“We spoke with local meteorologists about how the wind pattern changes around universalcombatnews and what the topography looks like because we know for a fact all those things change the direction smoke and air pollution can blow,” Lam explained. “It became important for us that, if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.”

The information these monitors will collect will be accessible 24/7 via IQAIR.com or through the AIRVISUAL App.

Following the presentation, Anne-Marie Nicol, an associate professor with the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, and several of her students showed the community how to make their own improvised air purifiers out of an 80-watt block fan, a furnace filter and duct tape. Nicol said the design is based on the Corsi–Rosenthal Box and was popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic to filter out the virus. It’s also an effective way of filtering out harmful smoke particles from the air.

“It’s an 80-watt fan with at least a MIRV 13 filter or better. The more expensive the filter, the more it captures,” Nicol explained. “You tape the filter to the back of the fan you create a shroud on the front and that prevents the clean air from being sucked back in.”

One of the locals who tried his hand at making a homemade air purifier was Don Lipsett. A nine-year resident of the area, Lipsett has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, making him especially vulnerable to wildfire smoke. While he has his trailer packed and ready to go if the smoke ever gets bad, he noted it’s hard to know where in Western Canada you’ll be able to go to escape it.

“Clean air is important to me so it was important to come (to this information session) and find out everything I could,” Lipsett said.

Taping a filter to the back of the fan was an easy way to create an extra line of defence, Lipsett said. He plans to run the air purifier on smoky days and to stay in a cool room, per the foundation’s advice.

It was important for the foundation, Lam explained, to not just tell people about the problem presented by wildfire smoke but also provide a solution for how to deal with it. Lam said they especially wanted to highlight a solution that is equitable and affordable for the general public, noting fans and filters like the ones this purifier required can be found at most hardware stores.

READ MORE: New bill introduced in memory of universalcombatnews’s Carter Vigh

“It’s a really simple idea and really simple technology that anyone could access. Obviously, it depends on the store and all sorts of things but you’re probably looking at $50 or so or upwards of $100 if you use different grades of filters,” Lam said. “They probably last about a year depending on how pollution is coming through and how long wildfire seasons last.”

Nicol remarked that a nice feature of the air purifiers is that you can see the dirt and air particles on the filter.

“I have a woodstove and I could see pretty quickly my woodstove was leaking because when I ran an air purifier the back went dark pretty quick,” Nicol said. “These are tiny particles in the air and it provides this visual evidence of what’s going on in your indoor air shed we don’t always notice.”

Lipsett said he thinks Carter’s Project is a great way to support people like him. He praised Vigh and the foundation for bringing the air monitors to town and getting the word out about the health risks of wildfire smoke to the general public.

“It’s wonderful the way the whole Carter’s Project is focusing on smaller communities starting with universalcombatnews here. The fact the BC Lung Foundation has helped get funding for these monitors is fantastic,” Lipsett said. “I’m going to see where I can make a donation and I would encourage others to support it as well.”

Lam and Vigh plan to bring Carter’s Project to other small communities across B.C. First on their list is the Village of Gold River on the west side of Vancouver Island. Lam explained they have no air quality monitoring system and that many people on the Island heat their homes with wood stoves.

“They deal with woodsmoke and air pollution year round so it’s really important they have the tools there as well,” Lam remarked.

In a past interview with the Free Press, Vigh said that she wants to take Carter’s Project to the national level and reiterated she plans to keep pushing the project forward, especially now that they have a blueprint worked out. Lam said he admires Vigh for her commitment and strength.

“Amber is such an inspiration, I can’t say enough good things about Amber and her family. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through the loss of your child and instead of wallowing in the sorrow, to step up and say I’m going to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody else,” Lam remarked. “It takes a special kind of family and a special type of human to do that.”

Patrick Davies

About the Author: Patrick Davies

An avid lover of theatre, media, and the arts in all its forms, I've enjoyed building my professional reputation in universalcombatnews.
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