The air Canadians breathe today is much cleaner than what Canadians were breathing back in 1990. The first State of the Air report, issued by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) in conjunction with its November 3, 2017 meeting in Vancouver, shows significant improvement in air quality over a range of parameters. The State of the Air report is an online tool accessible here.
The report cites Health Canada’s estimate that improvement in air quality in 2011 prevented 4,100 deaths, 2,200 hospital visits and 770,000 asthma events. Better air quality meant 11 million fewer instances where Canadians experienced breathing symptoms and 5.7 million fewer instances of people restricting their activity (e.g., not going to work or school) because of health problems made worse by air pollution.
The trend toward improvement should continue. At the meeting, ministers endorsed new Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS) for nitrogen dioxide. The new standards set nitrogen dioxide concentration objectives in ambient air for 2020 and for 2025. It’s expected the new standards will reduce emissions that are linked to health effects such as decreased lung function, respiratory health problems and environmental impacts.
CAAQS are benchmarks for air quality and are part of the Air Quality Management System, a comprehensive and harmonized approach to improve air quality across Canada. In addition to nitrogen dioxide, there are CAAQS for sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone.