Air pollution and health

What is air pollution?

Air pollution can be created in nature through events such as forest fires, and it can be human-caused.  Air pollution comes from many sources, for example, factories, vehicles, windblown dust, smoke and backyard burning, all of which release a wide variety of pollutants. Our everyday choices, such as driving, using gas powered lawn mowers, and burning wood, can have a significant impact on the air.

The Air Quality Flag program uses coloured flags that correspond with the Air Quality Health Index. It measures and reports on a combination of air pollutants known to harm human health.  These are:

  • Ozone (O3) at ground level
  • Particulate Matter (PM2.5/PM10)
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

How does air pollution affect health?

Air pollution can have a negative impact on the respiratory system ( lungs and airways ) and cardiovascular system ( heart and blood circulation) by;

  • Making it harder to breath.
  • Irritating your respiratory system.
  • Triggering episodes of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
  • Triggering episodes of heart conditions.

Everyone reacts differently to air pollution. Groups that are especially sensitive (at-risk) include children, the elderly, those active outdoors, and those with preexisting cardiac or respiratory diseases.

What can you do to protect your health and the health of your family?

You can protect yourself and those you care about when you understand how air pollution affects your health and when you know what the air quality is like in your community. Check your school’s air quality flag daily during this pilot. You can also check the Air Quality Health Index any time at