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Poor Air Quality 101

 

What is smog?

Smog refers to a brownish-yellow hazy cloud. It is made up of pollutants including gases and particulates that can be seen over the Region of Peel.

When is poor air quality a problem?

Poor air quality is typically a problem in Ontario between May and September. However, while most of the episodes of poor air quality occur in the summer, poor air quality is a year-round problem.

Where do air pollutants come from?

Air pollutants come from many sources including:

  • gasoline and diesel vehicles
  • homes
  • industries
  • coal-fired power plants
  • pesticides and herbicides
  • oil-based paints, solvents and cleaners
  • off-road vehicles like boats
  • wood burning fireplaces
  • road paving and construction
  • barbecues
  • gas and diesel powered lawnmowers
  • natural sources such as forest fires and plant growth
  • the United States - it is estimated that 50 per cent of Ontario's air pollution is blown across the border from sources in the U.S.

Why is poor air quality a problem?

It affects our health and the environment. Short-term exposure to poor air quality can cause respiratory problems, and nose and throat irritation.

In 2005, the Ontario Medical Association released a report entitled The Illness Costs of Air Pollution in Ontario. The report estimated the provincial health and economic damages associated with exposure to poor air quality.

Data for Ontario revealed that exposure to air pollution was predicted to result in approximately:

  • 5,800 premature deaths
  • 17,000 hospital admissions, and
  • 60,000 emergency room visits in 2005

If nothing was done to improve Ontario’s air quality, the number of premature deaths was estimated to hit 10,000 by the year 2026 as the population ages.

The combined healthcare and lost productivity costs in 2005 were estimated to reach almost a billion dollars and could reach well over a billion dollars by 2026.

Poor air quality is harmful to our environment because it can damage our crops and vegetation. The pollutants in smog also play a role in acid rain and climate change.

 

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Revised: Wednesday July 15 2015

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