How serious is air pollution in Ottawa? We have our BreatheEasy project underway to find out. First, using small hand held air sensors, we are measuring air quality in different areas all across the city and reporting our results publicly. We are also digging out existing information on air quality from a variety of sources both in Canada and around the world. It turns out that globally, there are a lot of people doing serious work on this subject and are readily sharing their findings with open reports and research results.
Most people here in Ottawa believe that the air we breathe everyday is fairly healthy and that while we do get the odd smog alert, overall we have nothing to worry about. If we check out the major cities in the world to see which ones are the most polluted, Ottawa is far better off than many cities in India or China where air pollution is extremely dangerous all year long. In fact, we rate at around 3900 on a global list where #1 is the worst.
If we take the time to check out the air quality at Ottawa's single government-operated air quality station, we would see that most of the time, the air pollution levels are considered to be in the "Low risk" category. We would also find out that the air quality in the country has actually improved in several ways over the last few decades.
But if we dig a little deeper, a 2021 Health Canada report tells us that annually, nearly 500 people die prematurely in Ottawa from air pollution. That is not an insignificant number. How serious is it? Here's one comparison: Covid-19 caused just over 500 deaths in the city in 2020.
So why don't we hear more about air pollution?
A recent article in The Guardian sheds some light on this issue. I tend to agree with what is written there.
I recommend that people take a few minutes to read the article and if so, to please share with us your reaction to it.