Famous for fresh air

Whitehorse has the best air quality in the world, according to a recent study by the World Health Organization.

Whitehorse has the best air quality in the world, according to a recent study by the World Health Organization.

“It’s a very significant accomplishment,” said Mayor Bev Buckway. “I think a number of people will want to capitalize on that, not only just the city, but the community as a whole.”

Over the years, she’s seen “odd” reactions from people as they arrive in Whitehorse.

“When people come from a bigger city where there is a fair bit of smog, you can see them physically sniffing the air saying, ‘Wow.’”

The World Health Organization body surveyed 1,082 cities around the world collecting air-quality data from 2003 to 2010

While Whitehorse garnered the No. 1 spot, Canada fared well over all.

Nine of the top 10 cities with the best air quality were Canadian.

Cities were ranked by the amount of concentration of fine particulate matter in a cubic metre of air.

With a particulate count of three, Whitehorse had the best air quality.

Ahwaz, Iran, was the worst in the world, with a count of 372.

With a low population, hydro power and no significant manufacturing industry, Buckway isn’t surprised Whitehorse did so well. But she said the city can do even better, even in the winter.

“Part of our sustainability plan is we’re always mindful of emissions,” she said. “The one thing we have a bit of a struggle with is encouraging people not to idle their vehicles.”

Transportation has a big impact on air quality, said Shannon Clohosey the city’s sustainability projects manager.

While the city’s sustainability programs aren’t designed to specifically address air quality, things like public transit, bike and pedestrian paths do have an impact, she said.

“We’re doing something right,” said Clohosey. “I hope that we continue to work to improve and keep getting better and better.”

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

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