Air Quality, Pollution & Smog

Smog, the grey or brown haze that sometimes accompanies hot days, describes pollutants in outdoor air. In urban areas, sources of pollution include cars, trucks and industry. Because pollutants travel through the air, pollution can affect air quality at great distances from where the pollution originated. 

When high smog levels are expected, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change issues Smog Alerts.

Smog affects everyone's health. Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution than others. Smog is especially harmful to:

  • Seniors
  • People with lung diseases and heart conditions
  • People with asthma, bronchitis, or other lung conditions
  • Children and pregnant women

Effects of smog on health include:

  • Irritates eyes, nose and throat
  • Causes wheezing, coughing and breathing difficulties
  • Associated with premature death
  • Results in increased hospitalizations and visits to the emergency room or the doctor's office due to pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and diabetes

Health risks may increase during high smog levels if you play sports or exercise outdoors, or are active outside (e.g., gardeners). When you exercise, you breathe harder than normal, bringing dirty air deeper into your lungs. You also breathe mostly through your mouth, bypassing the filtering action of your nose.  If you are active outdoors when smog levels are high you may have difficulty performing at your best because your lungs cannot work at full capacity.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself if there are elevated smog levels:

  • Reduce your activity level if you have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and/or difficulty breathing
  • Avoid or reduce strenuous outdoor physical activity, especially in late afternoon
  • Avoid or reduce strenuous outdoor physical activity such as running near areas of heavy traffic, especially during rush hour
  • Check the air quality forecast for Hamilton 
  • Plan your day to limit activities that increase smog (for ex., do errands with friends, car pool to work, take the bus to work, work from home)
  • Stay indoors if possible
  • Drink lots of water and take breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned area if you work outside
  • Check on neighbours, friends and family members, especially those who have health problems or live alone
  • Call your doctor or go to the closest walk-in clinic or hospital emergency department if you have concerns about your health

Air monitoring collects outdoor air quality data that is used to:

  • identify local sources of air emissions
  • evaluate potential health impacts on humans

Two air monitoring stations called Airpointers operate at the following parks on a rotating basis, beginning November 1, 2014:

  • Sam Manson Park
  • Glen Castle Park, Station 29181
  • Father Sean O’Sullivan Park
  • Confederation Park
  • Rosedale Arena Area
  • Oakland Park (Riverdale East Park), Station 29182
  • 2650 Barton Street East

The portable air monitor measures levels of these air pollutants on a continuous basis:

  • Sulphur Dioxide  or SO2
  • Ozone or O3
  • Respirable Particulate, less than 2.5 microns  or PM2.5
  • Carbon Monoxide  or CO
  • Nitric Oxide or NO
  • Nitrogen Dioxide  or NO2
  • Oxides of Nitrogen  or NOX

Environmental parameters monitored include:

  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Barometric pressure
  • Ambient temperature
  • Relative humidity
  • Rainfall
  • Door security

Check current air quality in Hamilton for

  • Glen Castle Park, Station 29181
  • Oakland Park (Riverdale East Park), Station 29182

Check today’s Air Quality Health Index reading

The Air Quality Health Index, or AQHI, is a scale to show what effect local air pollution levels may have on our health.  The AQHI incorporates ground-level ozone, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide into the rating.  These three common air pollutants are the best indicators of the effects of air pollution on health.  The AQHI is calculated hourly based on the cumulative health risks of these pollutants.  The result of the calculation is converted to an easily readable 10-point scale as below.

Health risk

Air Quality Health Index

Recommendations for activity

 

 

At risk population*

General population

Low

1-3

Do your usual outdoor activities

Do your usual outdoor activities

Moderate

4-6

Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you have symptoms

Modify your usual outdoor activities only if you have symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation

High

7-10

Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors

Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you have symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation

Very
High

above
10

Avoid strenuous activities outdoors

Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you have symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation

* At risk population includes people at increased risk such as children; seniors; people with existing respiratory conditions including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, emphysema or lung cancer; people with existing cardiovascular conditions including angina, previous heart attack, congestive heart failure or heart rhythm problems.

General population includes all individuals who are not noted above.

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