Today Ontario launched the new Air Quality Health Index to give Ontarians better information about health risks due to air pollution.
The Air Quality Health Index 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. It also reports on the health risks of the combination of pollutants in the air, where previous air quality indices reported only on air quality for individual pollutants.
The 2013 Air Quality in Ontario report showed that air quality measurements fell into the good or very good category for 94 per cent of the year in 2013. However, at times when air quality is poorer, the Air Quality Health Index can help people:
Reduce or reschedule outdoor physical activities
Monitor possible symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, coughing or irritated eyes
Follow their doctor’s advice to manage existing conditions such as asthma
Do their part to reduce pollution by taking public transit
The index builds on recent actions that Ontario has taken to reduce harmful greenhouse gas pollution and airborne pollutants including announcing a cap and trade program to limit the main sources of greenhouse gas pollution, ending coal-fired electricity generation and improving Ontario’s commuter rail network.
Protecting air quality and fighting climate change is part of the government’s economic plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, creating a dynamic and innovative environment where business thrives, and building a secure retirement savings plan.
Ontario’s action to end coal-fired power is the single-largest greenhouse gas reduction initiative in North America, equivalent to taking seven million cars off the road.
The Air Quality Health Index can be accessed through www.airqualityontario.com and by calling the Interactive Voice Response system at 1-800-387-7768 or 416-246-0411 in Toronto.
About Air Quality in Ontario
“Ontarians deserve the best possible information about the air they breathe. Ontario has done a great deal to reduce harmful air pollution and now the new index will help people make decisions to protect their own health and take action to lessen their own impacts to the environment.”
Glen R. Murray
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
“The new Air Quality Health Index will help Ontarians better understand what the quality of air around them means for their health and the action they can take to limit their exposure to air pollution. The index is another way our government is supporting people and patients with the information and transparency they need to make the right decisions about their health.”
Dr. Eric Hoskins
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
“The new Air Quality Health Index will help people better understand their level of risk from air pollution based on their age, health status and level of outdoor activity, and what to do to limit their exposure. The index will provide Ontarians with important information about the air they breathe and the best time to enjoy their favourite, outdoor activities.”
Dr. David Mowat
Interim Chief Medical Officer of Health
“Accurate, timely information about air quality benefits everyone who breathes, but it is of critical importance to the 2.4 million Ontarians living with a chronic lung disease. By putting more emphasis on the health impacts of air pollution, Ontario’s new Air Quality Health Index will ensure that vulnerable groups — including children with asthma and seniors with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — can take steps to protect themselves when air quality is poor.”
president and CEO, Ontario Lung Association