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Air quality: What is it and what can I do?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 10:57 AM -

What is air quality? 

Air quality describes the level of air pollutants in a certain area. Air pollutants can become dangerous to human health if people are sensitive to elevated levels of pollutants or are exposed to them for extended periods. To reduce risks, people need to know when pollutants are present and in what concentrations.  

Environment Canada scientists assess air quality by collecting and analyzing samples taken from near ground level. Pollutant levels are affected by such factors as emissions sources, weather conditions and topography. Building on their expertise in weather prediction, Environment Canada scientists have developed complex computer models that now provide air quality forecasts for major centres in Canada.

What Can I Do? 

Individual Canadians affect air quality in many ways and air pollution can be reduced through the choices we make every day. 

Individuals and households affect air quality directly through their use of 

  • electricity 
  • heating and cooking fuel (gas, oil, wood) 
  • fuel in cars, trucks and small gasoline engines (e.g., gas lawn mowers) 
  • products that release volatile organic compounds (VOC), such as solvents and lighting fluid 

Consumers contribute indirectly to air pollution by using products and services that have environmental impacts associated with their production, transportation, or disposal. An example is the consumption of food transported from far-off locations, resulting in pollutant emissions from truck transport over long distances. 

Individuals and households can reduce air pollution by making more efficient use of energy, switching to less polluting forms of energy, and making other green consumer choices. For example, better home insulation will reduce energy use. Switching to alternative energy sources such as wind, solar or hydroelectric will use less polluting forms of energy, as will choosing an electricity provider that uses a greater proportion of alternative energy sources. 

Courtesy Environment Canada

Air pollution: Causes and impacts
Young children more sensitive to air pollution
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