Spare the Air Actions
In southern Ontario, particularly
in and around the urban areas, periods of smog occuring most often during
the summer can cause air quality to fall well below acceptable standards.
Smog is a combination
of airborne pollutants that affect our health and our natural environment.
Most harmful are ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter that can enter
our lungs. These contaminants come from vehicles and other gasoline or diesel-powered
machinery, factories, chemical sprays, oil-based paints, airborne dust and
In some people, even mild
exposure can cause eye, nose and throat irritations, coughing, wheezing and
shortness of breath. Smog can lower resistance to infection and cause people
with heart and lung conditions to get even sicker. In some cases, it can contribute
to premature death.
The Ministry of the Environment
has developed a special program to notify Ontario residents when
poor air quality is expected. If forecasts indicate that the Air Quality Index (AQI) may reach a reading of 50 or greater, over a wide geographic area, the ministry
will declare either a 'smog watch' or a 'smog advisory'. A smog watch is
issued when there is a 50 per cent chance that poor air quality will occur
within the next three days. A smog advisory is issued when there is a high
probability that poor air quality will occur within the next 24 hours or if smog conditions occur without warning.
The Ontario government
is committed to protecting and improving our province's air quality. Programs
such as Drive Clean
and the Ontario Anti-Smog Action Plan will significantly reduce smog levels
over the next few years. But we can all help reduce smog and make the air
we breathe safer by taking special actions, especially on smog alert days.
Here are some things you
can do to protect yourself, your family and the environment:
- Reduce car use - all year round
Walk, cycle or take public transit. Emissions from cars, trucks and buses
contribute greatly to Ontario's smog problem. Leave your car at home, if possible,
or limit car trips by doing all your errands at once. Hold a teleconference
instead of travelling to meetings. Avoid being outside around high traffic
areas during peak rush hour times to minimize your exposure to smog.
- Drive Clean
If you must drive, try carpooling. And keep your car well tuned. A well maintained
car runs better and pollutes less. Shut the engine off, even for short stops
- one minute of idling uses more fuel than restarting your engine. Drive at
moderate speeds and check your tires regularly. Refuel your car after sundown
when air pollution levels are lower and gasoline vapours won't add to the
- Turn off the lights
Generating electricity contributes to smog, so remember to turn off the lights
whenever you don't need them.
- Set Your Air Conditioning Temperature a Few Degrees Higher
Air conditioning uses up energy, some of which is supplied by oil and coal-fired
generators which emit pollutants that contribute to smog. Increasing the temperature
in your home or place of work by a few degrees is a small price to pay to
reduce hydro usage and help improve air quality.
- Limit use of small engine tools
You'd hardly think that mowing the lawn contributes to smog, but it does.
Small gasoline engines in mowers, chain saws and leaf blowers emit high levels
of pollutants that cause smog. On smog alert days put off mowing the lawn
to another day. Use electric-powered or, even better, manual tools which don't
produce any pollution.
- Use air-friendly products
Avoid using aerosol sprays and cleaners, oil-based paints and other chemical
products that contribute to poor air quality indoors and outdoors. Use less-toxic
alternatives: a small cup filled with vinegar and left on a counter top works
as well as an aerosol air freshener; a mixture of water and soap flakes works
as well as any pest spray to reduce an ant colony. Use latex and water-based
- Delay exercising
Strenuous outdoor exercise, on smog alert days, can cause breathing difficulties
and eye and throat irritations even in healthy people. On smog alert days,
if strenuous outdoor activities or exercise are unavoidable, drink plenty
of fluids, take breaks, and monitor your health and the health of your children.
- Stay indoors
Sensitive people may experience eye, nose and throat irritations, chest discomfort,
laboured breathing and possible lung damage. If possible, stay indoors in
a cool, air-conditioned environment.
- Don't light up on smog alert days
Whether it's lighting up your fire place or even a cigarette, the smoke will
only add more pollutants to the air and further deteriorate air quality in
and around your home. Take a break - don't smoke, and enjoy light meals that
require little or no cooking.
- Educate your children
When a smog alert has been called, encourage your children to reduce their
exposure by avoiding strenuous outdoor activities. Exercise is important for
your children, but try to minimize their exertion when smog levels are high.
It may be advisable to reschedule outdoor sporting events. Talk to your kids
about what they can do to help improve air quality.
- During the colder months
Even in the middle of winter, the presence of fine particulate matter in the
air can cause smog. To avoid winter smog, reduce car use, turn off your vehicle
when parked and reduce electricity consumption. Further, limit the amount
of wood you burn in your fireplace or wood stove. When burning wood, use only
the dry, seasoned variety. If possible, use natural gas instead of wood.
For further information
Ministry of the Environment
135 St. Clair Ave. West
Toronto, Ontario M4V 1P5
Telephone: (416) 325-4000 or toll free at 1-800-565-4923
Internet: Ministry of the
Environment web site (www.ene.gov.on.ca)