June 24, 2015 – As of today, Ontarians can get better information about the health risks from air pollution via a new Air Quality Health Index.
The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) works like the UV index by providing real-time air quality measurements through a ranking of one through 10 or greater, with lower numbers representing better air quality. The AQHI reports on the health risks of the combination of pollutants in the air.
In most of Ontario, air quality is generally “good” or “very good;” however, at times when air quality is poorer, it is important to know that it may be time to take precautions including possibly reducing or rescheduling outdoor physical activities.
While usually considered a “city” problem, some pollutants, especially secondary pollutants like ozone, can build up even in rural or cottage areas. While ozone in the upper atmosphere protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation, ground-level ozone is bad for our health.
Ozone is a colourless, odourless gas and is a major component of smog. Ozone is not emitted directly into the atmosphere, but is generated when emissions of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the presence of sunlight. Since NOx and VOCs can travel long distances, ozone can build up, even in rural areas. About half of the NOx and VOCs in the province come from American sources. The formation and transport of ozone is strongly dependent on weather conditions and levels can change hour-to-hour, day-to-day, season-to-season, and year-to-year.
In Ontario, the highest concentrations of ground-level ozone are typically recorded on hot and sunny days from mainly May to September.
To learn more about the health effects of ozone, and the other major pollutants included in the new AQHI (fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide =NO2, carbon monoxide =CO, sulphur dioxide =SO2, total reduced sulphur =TRS compounds, ground-level ozone =O3), visit: http://www.airqualityontario.com/aqhi/index.php
If you have chronic breathing problems, or just want to be alerted to poor air quality alerts, you can sign up for an automated Air Quality Alert Notification.