Sep 2011 30

B.C. Ranked Among the Least Polluted Areas

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Berg Lake Twilight by Jeffrey Pang Berg Lake Twilight by Jeffrey Pang

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the results of an air pollution survey that focused on air quality in over 1,100 cities around the world.

The survey is designed to provide underlying scientific data and observations for policymakers who may then tailor various laws and guidelines according to the findings. The most important goal of the WHO is to identify what impact air pollution has on people’s health and how the disease burden can be alleviated.

The study measured the amount of microscopic particles, so-called particulate matter, dispersed in the air. More specifically, the WHO measured the mass of particles smaller than 10 µm and 2.5 µm in a cubic metre. This is because particles of different sizes have different health impacts.

According to the measurements conducted within the past several years in 91 countries around the globe, British Columbia has some of the lowest air pollution levels in the world. Even though the list of the cities with the cleanest air is headed by Whitehorse in Yukon, BC alone took five places in the Top 10 with Kitimat, Burns Lake, Nanaimo, Terrace, and Nelson with pollution levels lower than 6.5 µg/m3. This is great news to all British Columbians because such clean air poses virtually no health threat to residents.

In fact, most Canadian cities have less than 20 µg/m3 of particulate matter in the air, which is the WHO recommended level. To put things into perspective, the most polluted Canadian city is Sarnia, Ontario, with 21.2 µg/m3. On the other hand, the most polluted cities have as much 372 µg/m3, which is the case of the Ahwaz, Iran. It turns out that the entirety of Mongolia has average pollution levels more than ten times higher than Sarnia.

Among the most prominent factors influencing the amount of particles in the air are – according to the “Outdoor Air Pollution” WHO document – the quality of fuels used in cars and power plants, weather (most importantly wind and overall air circulation and exchange), and population size and density.

Let’s just end by saying: welcome to the healthiest province in Canada!

How do you make the most of the clean air in your Vancouver neighbourhood?

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