Air quality in Canada

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Canada

Last update at (local time)


Real-time Canada
Most polluted city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Calgary, Alberta


2 Fort St John, British Columbia


3 Abbotsford, British Columbia


4 Lac La Biche, Alberta


5 Patricia Mcinnes, Alberta


6 Brooks, Alberta


7 Fort Mckay, Alberta


8 Cold Lake, Alberta


9 Edmonton, Alberta


10 Gibbons, Alberta


(local time)



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Real-time Canada
Cleanest city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Maniwaki, Quebec


2 Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec


3 Waterloo, Ontario


4 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


5 Regina, Saskatchewan


6 Pictou, Nova Scotia


7 Burlington, Ontario


8 Edmundston, New Brunswick


9 Mississauga, Ontario


10 La Tuque, Quebec


(local time)


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What is the air quality forecast for Canada?

Canada is a large country located in the northern part of North America. The area covers almost 10 million square kilometres which makes it the second-largest country by total area. It shares a southern and western border with the United States. A 2020 census estimated the population to be in the region of 38 million people. Ottawa serves as Canada’s capital city.

At the beginning of 2021, Canada was experiencing “Good” quality air with a US AQI figure of 32. This classification is in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

What is the government doing about air pollution in Canada?

The plan hopes to encourage businesses to invest in green technologies, which will produce concrete benefits for the environment, both now and in the future.

In order to make this possible, the plan will set national emission caps for four air pollutants commonly associated with smog and acid rain, namely nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. Limits will also be set for other air pollutants, such as mercury from fuel-based electricity generation and benzene from the natural gas and steel industries.

The plan will also impose the maximum level of pollutants that a given area can emit in a year. The national limits will be calculated by adding the different sectoral ceilings set for each pollutant.

Businesses will also be able to take part in a Canadian emissions trading system, and purchase credits if they do not meet their nitrogen oxides or sulphur oxides reduction targets. Even if the trading system is not yet fully operational, trade will be limited in areas where air quality is poor. Only in this way can a minimum level of air quality be assured at the local or regional level.

What are the main causes of air pollution in Canada?

Natural sources of air pollution include forest fires, volcanoes, and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from vegetation. Human sources of air pollution include activities that rely on the use of carbon-based or fossil fuels (for example, transportation, off-road vehicles and mobile equipment, as well as power generation), industrial processes such as those related to the production of oil and gas as well as certain products, such as paints and solvents.

Concentrations of pollutants in the outdoor air can be influenced by many factors, including the number of air pollutants released from sources, proximity to sources, and weather conditions, such as air temperature, air stability and wind speed and direction. Some pollutants can be carried by the wind and affect the air quality in places thousands of kilometres from their source of origin.

The growth of Canada’s population and economy increases the demand for the production and supply of goods and services, transportation and housing. The energy required to meet these demands mainly comes from fossil fuels, which affects the quality of the air that we breathe. The growth of the economy includes the growing demand for Canadian exports (particularly from the oil and gas industry), which also generates the release of air pollutants.

Even with this increased demand, emissions of many air pollutants have generally declined in Canada over the past few years. Various means have contributed to these reductions, including the implementation of regulations and non-regulatory instruments and the technological improvement of vehicles and industrial processes. The adoption by consumers and businesses of more environmentally sustainable practices, such as the use of public transit and carpooling, and the optimisation of production processes to make them more energy-efficient, have also contributed to the observed decrease.

What can be done to improve air quality in Canada?

The Government of Canada is taking action to reduce overall levels of air pollution. Emissions of air pollutants are subject to a number of regulations developed and implemented under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999). These regulations aim to limit the number of pollutants released into the atmosphere each year.

Whenever possible, instead of taking a car, choose public transport, walk or cycle when it is safe to do so. Choose alternatives to devices and vehicles powered by fossil fuels such as hybrid or zero-emission vehicles. Choose to use a rowing boat or sailing craft instead of a motorised vessel, or a manual lawnmower instead of a gas-powered mower.

Think about fuel economy when buying a vehicle. Keep all of your vehicles in good repair to make sure they are running efficiently.

Reduce your energy consumption by making your home more energy-efficient. Keep radiators, gas, oil and wood-burning appliances and stoves in good repair or replace them with new, cleaner combustion models. Buy products that contain little or no VOCs or other contaminants.

Plant trees to increase the urban canopy, provide shade, and improve air quality.

The Canadian government is taking immediate action to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, that cause climate change. Their plan is both rigorous and realistic, and it will translate into real improvements for the climate and the environment.

In future, all major industrial activity will have to comply with strict limits to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollutants. Emissions from cars and light trucks must be reduced. The range of energy-efficient products must be increased and the quality of indoor air must be improved.

What are the health risks associated with Canada’s air quality?

Canadians spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, where they are exposed to various types of pollutants. Some of these pollutants percolate in from the outside, while others come from sources such as mould, heaters, stoves and furnaces that are poorly maintained or have a faulty exhaust system. The very fabric of the building can also have adverse effects. Poor indoor air quality is one of the top five risks to public health.

Atmospheric pollution can harm our health, the environment, buildings, structures and the economy. Air pollution problems, such as smog and acid rain, are the result of the presence and interaction of various pollutants released into the atmosphere by both natural processes and human activities.

As a victim of air pollution, you may experience tiredness, headache and/or dizziness, coughing and sneezing, difficulty breathing and have a feeling of dryness and irritation in the eyes, nose and throat. You may see these symptoms after a few minutes or hours and then feel better after leaving the affected space. You'll notice them more if you haven't spent a lot of time in this space. For example, you might notice a difference after the holidays.

People with lung or heart disease may experience more frequent and severe symptoms. They may also need more medicine to reduce these symptoms.

The severity of the symptoms depends on several factors such as the level and type of pollutants suspended in the air. The length of time exposed to the pollution and the frequency of such occurrences all play a part in the effects.

What is Canada doing about transportation and the pollution it causes?

Transportation is one of the main sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. Cars, trucks, trains and aeroplanes all contribute to air pollution, and they are responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gases and air pollutant emissions in Canada.

Fuel consumption of cars and light trucks will be regulated, to make sure they use fuel efficiently. The adopted standard will be governed by the rigorous North American standard. We will work intensively with the United States to create a Clean Auto Pact, which will instigate an environmentally ambitious North American standard for cars and light trucks, in Canada.

Air pollution rules will be established for vehicles and engines that are sources of smog and will include motorcycles, personal watercraft, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. They will be synchronised with those in the United States, which are some of the most rigorous in the world. Rail, maritime and air sectors also need to be monitored in such a way that their emissions can be improved.

Even relatively small savings were made when incandescent light bulbs were replaced by LEDs. Household appliances need to be inspected to make sure that they are as energy-efficient as they can be.

What are the side effects of breathing Canada’s polluted air?

Long-term exposure to air pollution is a major cause of death and disease throughout the world. This exposure to outdoor air pollution causes approximately 4.2 million premature deaths per year. In Canada, air pollution is linked to approximately 14,600 premature deaths each year.

Exposure to nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) can irritate the lungs, impair lung function and increase susceptibility to allergens in people with asthma. Both nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide are also precursors of fine particulate matter PM2.5 and contribute to the formation of smog and acid rain.

Fine particles and ground-level ozone (O3) are the main components of smog and are associated with irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, shortness of breath, exacerbation of respiratory problems and allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. Children under the age of 14 years, senior citizens, people with pre-existing respiratory problems and those living near cities are more vulnerable to these effects than others.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the product of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. It can have a significant impact on human health by entering the bloodstream through the lungs, which impedes the blood's ability to carry oxygen to organs and tissues. It is particularly harmful to people with heart disease and people with respiratory problems. It can also affect healthy people by impairing exercise capacity, visual perception, manual dexterity, learning functions and the ability to perform complex tasks.

Ground-level ozone (O3) can affect the growth and productivity of some crops, damage flowers and shrubs, and contribute to forest decline in parts of Canada. It can also modify ecosystems since some plant species that are more resistant to ozone can displace those that are less resistant.

Ammonia (NH3) is a colourless gas generated mainly by the management of livestock waste and the production of fertilisers. It is toxic if inhaled in large amounts and is irritating to the eyes, nose and throat in small amounts. It has a very strong, distinctive smell, so it is relatively easy to be aware of. Ammonia can contribute to the nitrification and eutrophication of aquatic systems.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) can cause or accelerate corrosion and spoiling of certain materials and contribute significantly to acid rain. Acid rain damages soils and water bodies and is a stressor for plant and animal species. The interactions between acid rain, ultraviolet rays and climate change can amplify its effects.

Smog is a yellowish haze, originating from a mixture of air pollutants that limits visibility in the atmosphere. It is mainly made up of fine particles and ground-level ozone.

What can Canadian citizens do to help improve air quality?

They could use public transportation to help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in the cities and greenhouse gas emissions that impact our climate, thereby benefiting from the government's tax credit for passes on public transport. A greener vehicle would be a good choice when replacing the current one. Perhaps a hybrid or an all-electric? Generous rebates of up to $2,000 are available when changing your car to an environmentally friendly one.

Does poor air quality affect the economy?

Health effects of PM2.5 and ground-level ozone can result in economic costs due to decreased productivity, increased health care needs, decreased quality of life and increased risk of premature death. These effects cost the Canadian economy a considerable amount of money every year. The total economic estimate of the health effects attributable to air pollution in Canada is $ 114 billion per year.

Rising levels of ozone also reduce the growth of crops, other plants and trees, resulting in economic losses for the agriculture and forestry sectors. The resulting loss of production costs Canadian farmers millions of dollars each year.

Smog accelerates the discolouration, fading and tarnishing of materials (e.g. rubber, textiles, special surface coatings) and thereby increases the required frequency of replacement or cleaning or maintenance.

Canada air quality data attribution


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