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wildfire causes extreme pollution.)The higher the number, the greaterthe health risk and the greater theneed to take precautions. When theAQHI reading is 7 or higher, reducingor rescheduling outdoor physicalactivities is recommended.
The AQHI is based on readings
of three pollutants: fine particulate
matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide.
Because of Alberta’s energy-basedeconomy, some other pollutants arealso considered. “Alberta has ledthe way by adopting and modifyingthe national AQHI to give Albertansthe most timely and relevantinformation to plan their outdooractivities,” explains Bob Myrick, seniormanager of air policy with AlbertaEnvironment and Sustainable ResourceDevelopment.
Depending on how long you are
outside, your health, your genetics and
the level of pollutants, outdoor air can
irritate or harm your heart and lungs.
“Poor air quality can result inbreathing difficulties, coughing, eyeand throat irritation and fluid in thelungs,” Achebe says. “Some of theseconditions can be life-threatening, andthose at risk are mostly the elderly andpeople with chronic diseases [suchas heart disease, chronic bronchitis,emphysema and asthma].” Childrenare also vulnerable to air pollutionbecause they have less well-developedrespiratory and defence systems.
Just as we’re used to planning our
day by checking the weather forecast
and by consulting the UV index to
determine how long it’s safe to be
exposed to the sun, “most Albertans
are now able to check air quality
before heading off to work or play,
within the next hour or the next
day,” confirms Myrick. The AQHI is
another important tool you can use to
proactively manage and protect your
Achebe points out Albertans cancontribute to cleaner air. “Reduce caruse by walking, biking, taking thepublic transit or even carpooling.”Conserving energy and limiting theuse of small engine tools such aslawn mowers also helps to reduce airpollution.
The AQHI is available online atairquality.alberta.ca or by calling1-877-247-7333.
— Colleen Seto
Alberta has led the way by
adopting and modifying the
national air quality health index