May 8, 2007
Media Release

Smog advisory issued

 
NEWMARKET – A smog advisory has been issued by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for various areas, including York Region. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.
 
A Smog Advisory means that there is a strong likelihood that there may be poor air quality within the next 24 hours due to ground-level ozone and/or fine particulate matter. The Air Quality Index (AQI) program is managed by the Ministry of the Environment, who issues the information to the public.
 
Smog is a combination of airborne pollutants that affect our health and our natural environment. Most harmful are ground-level ozone and fine airborne particles that, once inhaled, can introduce harmful mixtures of chemical compounds into our lungs.
 
Smog levels are monitored by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and reported through the AQI program. The MOE conducts hourly readings of the most common air pollutants year-round at 40 sites province-wide and provides as many as six public reports per day. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a rating scale that measures outdoor air quality in Ontario. The AQI translates pollutant levels into numbers to determine whether the air quality is considered to be "good," "moderate" or "poor." A Smog Advisory is declared by the MOE if forecasts indicate the AQI may exceed a reading of 50 in a given geographic area.
 
Smog most often occurs on hot, humid summer days. Ground level ozone forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react together in the presence of intense sunlight. Smog levels are influenced by factors such as weather systems and airflow patterns. High levels of smog are often removed after a heavy rainfall.
 
In some people, even mild exposure to ground level ozone can cause eye, nose and throat irritations, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Smog can lower resistance to infection and can cause illness in people with heart and lung conditions. Those at particular risk include young children, the elderly, asthmatics and anyone with existing respiratory or coronary conditions.
 
During a Smog Advisory, York Region Health Services offers residents the following information and advice to protect themselves and their families from the harmful effects of exposure to smog.  These include:  
• Avoiding strenuous exercise and limit outdoor activities
• Rescheduling outdoor activities until the smog advisory has been cancelled
• Keeping away from high traffic areas to reduce exposure to vehicle exhaust
• Staying inside in a cool or well-ventilated environment
• Drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
• Seeking medical attention for those complaining of symptoms such as tightness in their chests, coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath, excessive weakness or fatigue
 
Individuals and businesses can make a big difference in helping to reduce smog levels, including:
• Limiting the use of cars: walk, cycle, carpool or take public transit
• Telecommuting (work from home) and teleconference whenever possible
• Turning off your vehicle engine if you are stopping for more than 10 seconds, except in traffic.  Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting your engine.
• Restricting the use of oil-based paints, solvents, pesticides, glues, gas-powered engines (such as lawnmowers and leaf blowers) and barbecues
• Conserving energy: Turning down the air conditioner and turning off lights you are not using. Use energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. Install low-flow showerheads and aerators in faucets to conserve water
• Order ingyour own free 20/20 The Way to Clean Air Planner Guide, filled with tips to reduce your energy use, by contacting the Clean Air Partnership at 1-866-583-2020 or visit www.toronto.ca/health/2020
 
York Region is currently undertaking several initiatives in order to create a healthier environment and reduce emissions that contribute to air pollution, including:
 
• Regional Air Quality Strategy (under development)
• Sustainability Strategy
• Building Retrofits and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver certification for all new Regional buildings
• Traffic and Pedestrian signal Light-Emitting Diode (LED) retrofits
• Viva Rapid Transit and York Region Transit (YRT)
• Smart Commute Initiative
• Greening Strategy
• 20/20 The Way to Clean Air Program
• Water for Tomorrow Program
• Waste Management Strategy
 
For further information on air quality issues or a copy of the Smog Alerts booklet, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 (toll free).
 
To find out what the current Air Quality Index (AQI) readings are for York Region, contact the Ministry of the Environment. The MOE posts air quality reports and 3-day forecasts at www.airqualityontario.com. Residents can be directly notified of Smog Alerts by registering for the Smog Alert by Email service on the provincial website. Air quality reports are also available by calling 416-246-0411 or 1-800-387-7768.
 
For more information on this or any other health-related topics contact, York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.york.ca
 
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, York Region Health Services
905-830-4444 Ext. 4016 or After-hours Cell (905) 716-2717
Email: jennifer.mitchellemmerson@york.ca

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