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Outdoor air quality


Outdoor air pollutants can reach levels that may adversely affect our health and the health of the environment. Pollutants can come from a variety of sources. Children and seniors with existing medical conditions such as respiratory disease are particularly vulnerable to these pollutants.

Visit the Health Canada website for more information on the health effects of air pollution.

Sources of outdoor pollution

Outdoor air pollution is generated from a variety of sources including emissions from:

  • Cars
  • Industry
  • Burning of wood and other fuel types for energy and agricultural activities
  • Forest fires

These sources can emit the following pollutants:

  • Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5)
  • Ground level ozone
  • Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Local air quality information

Health Canada, Environment Canada and the provinces developed this Air Quality Health Index to provide local outdoor air quality information and strategies to help people improve air quality and protect themselves.

Get local air quality information from the Air Quality Health Index website.

Air quality advisories

Air quality advisories are issued when:

  • Pollution approach or exceeds limits
  • Poor air quality is expected to continue or worsen

Air quality advisories are posted on the BC Air Quality section of the BC Ministry of Environment website.

Staying healthy during an air quality advisory

  • Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and lung or heart disease. It’s important for these vulnerable people to stay in air conditioned spaces, or facilities with cooler filtered air like an arena or public library.
  • Mild respiratory symptoms include a sore throat and shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or a sudden cough or irritated airways, should contact their health care provider.
  • Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity – if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity.
  • Reduce indoor pollution sources such as smoking or burning other materials.

Air quality management in Canada

Air quality management is shared by federal, provincial, territorial and local governments and agencies. The roles and responsibilities of each are outlined on the Air Quality and Health Role of Governments page of the Health Canada Air Quality website.

The BC Air Quality website provides a summary of Air Quality legislation and FAQs.

SOURCE: Outdoor air quality ( )
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