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Outdoor Air Quality

There are many different types of outdoor air pollutants. The gases and fine particles that make up air pollution are in the air we breathe and can contribute to heart and lung disease.

We should all consider the things we can do to improve air quality to help make the air healthier for everyone. Small actions such as maintaining our home furnaces to use less energy, not idling our cars, or biking to work instead of driving can improve the air we breathe as well as save us money.

Health effects from air pollution depend on many things including the length of time and the amount of pollution you are exposed to. Air pollution can:

  • make it harder to breathe;
  • irritate your lungs and airways; and
  • worsen conditions such as heart disease, bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.

Each person reacts differently to air pollution. Children, the elderly, and those with diabetes, heart or lung disease are most sensitive to the negative health effects of air pollution. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) provides more information about the illnesses, hospital visits, and deaths linked to air pollution in 2005 and the estimated increases by 2026.

If we idle our car for more than 60 seconds, we are contributing to poor air quality and climate change. A car's exhaust contains particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2). By reducing idling by five minutes a day, you will save about 44.9 litres of fuel ($55.36 at $1.25/L) and 103 kg of greenhouse gas emissions in a year.

Check with your local municipality to see if they have an idling control by-law.

Poor air quality contributes to thousands of deaths and hospital admissions in Canada each year. However, you can take actions to protect your health. The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has made it easier for you and your family to be aware of the health risks of poor air quality. The AQHI provides real-time and 2-day forecast of the air quality risk levels, ranking from 1 to 10+. The number is calculated based on research conducted by Health Canada. The lower the number, the lower the pollution and the lower the risk to your health.

With this information, you can take action to protect your family's health by modifying or changing outdoor activities. We provide advice for the general public as well as those at higher risk.

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