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Take a fresh look at clearing the air

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The average person takes about 14 breaths a minute, or enough air during a day to blow up 600 beach balls. With that in mind, Canada recently held Clean Air Day, a nationwide initiative designed to raise awareness and encourage action on clean air and climate change issues.
 

Environment Canada is urging Canadians to show their commitment by participating in activities that contribute to cleaner air, healthier communities and a better quality of life for all. For instance, the transportation sector is a major contributor of air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. Why not take some inspiration from Clean Air Day and renew or begin a commitment to sustainable transportation? When you use public transit, cycle, walk and rollerblade, you can reduce your personal emissions, save money used on fuel, contribute to your personal health and much more.

Environment Canada is a world leader in clean air science research, and its studies have helped create the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI). A number of pilot areas have been chosen for the AQHI, and anybody living in or visiting those cities can check the latest air quality online:

The index is a scale designed to help you understand what the air quality around you means and make decisions to protect your health by limiting short-term exposure to air pollution, and adjusting your activity levels during increased levels of such pollution. It also provides advice on how you can improve the quality of the air you breathe.

The AQHI communicates four primary things:
  1. A number from 1 and 10+ indicating the quality of the air. The higher the number, the greater the health risk associated with the air quality;
  2. A category that describes the level of health risk associated with the index reading (e.g., Low, Moderate, High, or Very High Health Risk);
  3. Health messages customized to each category for both the general population and the ‘at risk’ population; and
  4. Current hourly AQHI readings and maximum forecasted values for today, tonight and tomorrow.
It is calculated based on the relative risks of a combination of common air pollutants which are known to harm human health, including ozone, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide. The results are measured on the following scale:

 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  +
Low Risk Moderate Risk High Risk Very High Risk

The messages conveyed by the results are:

Health Risk
Air Quality Health Index
Health Messages
  At Risk Population*
General Population
Low 1-3 Enjoy your usual outdoor activities. Ideal air quality for outdoor activities.
Moderate 4-6 Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms. No need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
High 7-10 Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also take it easy. Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
Very High
Above 10
Avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion. Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
* People with heart or breathing problems are at greater risk. Follow your doctor's usual advice about exercising and managing your condition.

For more information about the AQHI, visit http://www.ec.gc.ca/cas-aqhi/default.asp?Lang=En&n=065BE995-1.

 

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