Albertans are fortunate to experience ‘low to moderate’ health risk air quality more than 95 per cent of the time – the best rating possible – under one of Canada’s most comprehensive air monitoring management systems. However, growth and development create challenges to ensure we can continue to breathe easy. This was the impetus for a renewed provincial Clean Air Strategy and Alberta’s endorsement of the National Air Quality Management System
Every year, the Government of Alberta posts a report on particulate matter and ozone management levels across the province, based on the last three years of data collected. In August 2012, the data set for the 2008-2010 reporting period was posted to the ESRD website, to provide important and transparent information that allows the province to better plan for managing air quality in the future.
The report alerted Albertans that, for a total of nine days, PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) levels, a major component of urban smog, were higher than the national air quality standards at two monitoring stations in Edmonton (east and central) within the reporting period.
The heightened levels were the direct results of several days of stagnant weather in the months of December 2009, January 2010 and February 2010, when pollution from automobiles, industries and other sources caused some days of winter smog in Edmonton.
At the same time, we started using more sensitive monitoring equipment to measure PM2.5 and adopted more stringent national air quality standards.
In our ongoing efforts to be more vigilant and stay within the new national standards, ESRD, in collaboration with other government departments, is working with the city of Edmonton, stakeholders and industry to develop a management plan aimed at reducing PM2.5 levels below the Canada-wide Standard.
A variety of options could be examined through this process, including increasing awareness of the day-to-day activities we might engage in, such as idling vehicles, or things like encouraging greater use of public transit.
All day, every day, Albertans have access to timely information through the Air Quality Health Index. This online tool provides updated information on air quality and helps people understand what the air quality around them means to their health.