The Worst Canadian Cities for Air Pollution

Air pollution is on the rise and could be taking a toll on your health. Here, we count down the Canadian cities with the worst air pollution.

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Air Pollution in Canada

According to the World Health Organization, more than 80 percent of people living in urban areas around the world are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO guidelines. With air pollution, also comes an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and respiratory diseases such as asthma. While Canada is far down the WHO offender list (it's actually third in the world for best air quality) many Canadian cities are still listed at risk for health-related issues from poor air quality. The Canadian Medical Association estimates that poor air quality was responsible for 21,000 deaths in 2008. Three cities in Canada exceeded the maximum level for particulate matter per cubic metre. Read on for the Canadian cities most affected and ways you can protect yourself.

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#10 Montreal, Quebec

Montreal falls just below the WHO's recommended maximum level of 20 at 16 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre (air particles of 10 or less micrometres in diameter). This city shares this particulate matter level with other Canadian cities such as Hamilton, Houston, Saskatoon, Burlington, Gatineau, Kamloops, Laval, London, Saint-Simon and Varennes. London, Houston, Saskatoon and Kamloops all showed increased level of pollution compared to previous reports. You can reduce your overall exposures to pollutants by limiting physical activity during times of poor air quality and staying indoors. These are the worst Canadian cities for allergies. 

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#9 Winnipeg, Manitoba

Winnipeg, the capital city of Manitoba, has 17 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre, according to the WHO's 2016 report. In 2008 their particulate matter level was 9, so it has increased by 88 percent. To improve your indoor air quality, Health Canada recommends using an air filter such as HEPA filters and electrostatic precipitators, which can reduce some air contaminants, though steer clear of any filters that produce lung-irritating ozone. Find out which Canadian city ranked best for overall quality of life.

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#8 Windsor, Ontario

Windsor, a city located along the Detroit River, has 17 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre. Ontario cities often face high levels of smog in the summer months. This mixture of air pollutants can be a respiratory irritant, which can impact those living with respiratory diseases such as COPD. If you experience symptoms during smog and high humidity, controlling the humidity inside your home can help to improve your symptoms, according to the Ontario Lung Association. These Canadian provinces have the highest rate of cancer.

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#7 Bruderheim, Alberta

Bruderheim is a town northeast of Edmonton. It has 17 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre, just slightly below the WHO's recommended maximum level of 20. News reports show this province may soon have the worst air quality in Canada with the Red Deer region exceeding national standards and the areas of Lower Athabasca, Upper Athabasca, North Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan close to exceeding the national standards.

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#6 Lemieux, Quebec

Lemieux, a small municipality of 340 residents in Quebec, has 18 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, Quebec is the leading source of fine particulate emissions from human activity in Canada, most of which are caused by using wood heating. The government of Quebec recommends using alternate heat sources in your home and burning only dry hardwood such as oak. These wellness adventures are a must if you're visiting Quebec City. 

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#5 Fort St. John, British Columbia

Fort St. John, a city in northeastern British Columbia, has 18 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre. According to BC Air Quality, pollution from industrial and domestic sources such as wood smoke is contributing to air quality issues in the North and the Interior of the province. In this province, residential wood heating accounts for approximately 15 percent of total PM emissions, according to the David Suzuki Foundation. To reduce exposure, avoid burning garbage, treated wood, or particle board, all of which can emit fine particles of harmful chemicals.

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#4 Trois-Rivieres, Quebec

Trois-Rivières, a city located between Montreal and Quebec City, had 19 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre, just under the WHO's recommended maximum level of 20. While it will take nation-wide environmental initiatives to reduce outdoor air pollution, Health Canada recommends improving your indoor air quality by replacing mouldy areas in your home, properly maintaining fuel-burning appliances such as fireplaces, using an exhaust fan to remove cooking gases and particles, regularly cleaning and ventilating your home and not smoking indoors.

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#3 Vanderhoof, British Columbia

Vanderhoof, located in the centre of B.C. has 21 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre of air pollution, just slightly over the WHO's recommended maximum level of 20. While anyone can be affected by pollution, those at the greatest risk include individuals with heart conditions, respiratory conditions, people with diabetes, the elderly, children and pregnant women, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Talk to your doctor about strategies to help reduce your daily risk.

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#2 Regina, Saskatchewan

Regina, the capital city of Saskatchewan, is located on the prairies in the centre of North America. This city's air pollution was 25 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre, also exceeding the WHO's recommended maximum level of 20. In 2008, the city had a PM10 of 9, marking an increase of 177 percent. Due to the Fort McMurray fires, portions of western Saskatchewan are now also experiencing poor air quality measurements.

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#1 Courtenay, British Columbia

Courtenay, a city of approximately 24,000, is located along the central east coast of Vancouver Island in the Comox Valley, British Columbia. The air pollution in this city was 30 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre, exceeding the WHO's recommended maximum level of 20. Individuals with lung or heart disease should consult Environment Canada's Air Quality Health Index before taking up physical activities on days of increased air pollution.

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