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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 CanadaPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Air Pollution in Canada

According to the World Health Organization, 91% of the world’s population is living in spaces where the WHO’s air quality guidelines are not met. High levels of air pollution comes with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and respiratory diseases such as asthma. While Canada is far down the WHO’s worst-offender list (it’s actually third in the world for best air quality) many Canadian cities could still be at risk for causing health-related issues from poor air quality. Read on for the Canadian cities most affected and ways you can protect yourself.

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air pollution in CanadaPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

#10 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Saskatoon falls below the WHO’s recommended maximum level of 10 micrograms of PM2.5 (air particles of 2.5 or less micrometres in diameter) per cubic metre. The city has an average of 6.8 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre, according to a 2016 Environment and Climate Change Canada report. Saskatoon shares this particulate matter level with London, Ontario.

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#9 St. Catherine’s, Ontario

This city, less than an hour away from the U.S. border at Buffalo, has 6.9 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre. 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. (Related: Find out which Canadian city ranked best for overall quality of life.)

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air pollution in Canada | TorontoPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

#8 Toronto, Ontario

It comes as no surprise that Canada’s biggest city has a lot of air pollution. Toronto has an average of 7 micrograms of PM2.5 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. (Related: These Canadian provinces have the highest rate of cancer.)

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#7 Montreal, Quebec

Montreal, situated along the St. Lawrence River, has an average of 7.1 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre. Reports have found that Montreal has some of the worst air quality in Canada because of the high number of wood-burning stoves—the city has 50,000 domestic wood-burning appliances, though new rules will force homeowners to replace or stop using them. The government of Quebec recommends using alternate heat sources in your home and burning only dry hardwood such as oak. (Related: These wellness adventures are a must if you’re visiting Quebec City.) 

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group jogging runningJacob Lund/Shutterstock

#6 Kitchener, Ontario

This city, about an hour west of Toronto, has an average of 7.3 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre. You can reduce your overall exposures to pollutants by limiting physical activity during times of poor air quality and staying indoors.

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air pollution in Canada | carPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

#5 Hamilton, Ontario

Hamilton has an average of 7.8 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre. In 2016, the city had the highest rate of air pollution in the province of Ontario—mostly due to industry and car travel. 

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air pollution in CanadaPhoto Credit: Sutterstock

#4 Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Yellowknife, also has an average of 7.8 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre, but the trendline is moving in the right direction. The city has actually greatly improved their air pollution—in 2014, Yellowknife averaged 15.8 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre.

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#3 Regina, Saskatchewan

Regina, the capital city of Saskatchewan, is located on the prairies in the centre of North America. This city’s air pollution registers at 8.1 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre. In 2008, the city had a PM2.5 of 4.6, marking an increase of 170 percent. Due to the Fort McMurray fires, entire regions of western Saskatchewan are now also experiencing poor air quality measurements.

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air pollution in CanadaPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

#2 Quebec City, Quebec

The capital city of Quebec has an average of 8.2 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air pollution. 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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#1 Windsor, Ontario

Windsor, a city located along the Detroit River, has an average of 8.3 micrograms of PM2.5per cubic metre. 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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