AIR QUALITY AND SMOG
Air is a mixture of gases that makes up the atmosphere. Clean air contains 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen as well as trace amounts of other natural and manmade substances. Many of these other substances are pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter.
Ground-level ozone (GLO) is a colourless and highly irritating gas that forms through a complex reaction of NOx and VOCs in the presence of sunlight. Because sunlight is a major catalyst for GLO formation, ozone levels are typically highest from April to September, between noon and early evening.
GLO is the most measured outdoor air pollutant in Canada and a primary component of smog. The main source of GLO is the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) for transportation and energy industries. GLO is different from atmospheric ozone that protects the earth from solar UV radiation.
Smog can have a wide range of short- and long-term adverse health effects on children, elderly, those with pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular conditions as well as healthy individuals. Short-term exposure (1-2 hours) to low levels of smog can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and produce respiratory complications such as coughing, wheezing and painful breathing. Smog may also increase the susceptibility of asthmatics to common allergens.
Long-term exposure to smog can cause premature lung aging and ultimately lead to an increase in hospital admissions and possibly premature death.
Health Protection Tips
Everyone is at risk from the health effects associated with poor air quality. Steps such as checking the air quality level and avoiding or reducing outdoor activities during peak smog times are important in reducing exposure. Other steps may include car pooling, biking or using public transit; reducing energy consumption at home and work and using alternatives to fossil fuel powered machinery.
For further information call Public Health at 376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456, or visit our web site at www.publichealthgreybruce.on.ca
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We work with the Grey Bruce community to protect and promote health