Smog / Air Pollution
Being Smog-Wise – What’s new?
The OMA has done many reports on the health effects of air pollution in Ontario, through our Illness Costs of Air Pollution (ICAP) work and on how patients can act to protect themselves, through our Smog-Wise information.
In 2008, the OMA worked with the Canadian Medical Association to develop a national ICAP model so that smog-health estimates could be made for 10 Provinces. Although the OMA reports and releases provide lots of information in the adjacent links, the most recent ICAP data exists on a CMA site at http://www.cma.ca/index.php/ci_id/86830/la_id/1.htm
Since the Ontario Medical Association’s initial release of its Smog-Wise tips in 2003, the medical understanding of how smog impacts the human body has grown considerably. We now understand that smog pollutants have a very significant impact on heart health and in fact that premature smog deaths are more likely to be from cardiac causes than respiratory ones. Although the general public may not yet fully understand exactly how smog affects them, the concern about smog and other environmental health impacts has increased significantly in the past years. In response to improved understanding and societal concern, there is more information now publicly available on current and projected air pollutant concentrations.
In parts of Ontario, the Provincial Air Quality Index (AQI) and a new Federal Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) are both available. The AQHI was developed from epidemiological health studies, whereas the AQI uses provincial air quality management objectives that are not fully health based. As confusing as this may be, the OMA Smog-Wise advice remains essentially the same:
- If you are aware of health conditions that make you, or those in your care, especially vulnerable to smog, you must educate yourself about how to reduce exposure;
- Both the AQI and the new AQHI can be used as indicators of smog conditions, but as everyone’s health response is different, do not assume that Low Risk or Good Air Quality forecasts mean that it is safe for everyone;
- Take a reasonable, but precautionary approach to reducing your exposure and protecting yourself from smog’s ill effects;
If you are concerned about smog’s impact on a pre-existing health condition (e.g., asthma, heart disease), or have other health concerns, talk to your physician.