Whitehorse air quality information now online

Whitehorse air quality information is now available online through the national Air Quality Health Index service.

Whitehorse air quality information is now available online through the national Air Quality Health Index service.

The index, or AQHI, is a 10-point scale that indicates the level of risk posed by three common air pollutants – particular matter, ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide. Values from one to three are considered low-risk, while seven to 10 are considered high-risk to human health.

“The elderly, children or people with health conditions such as asthma or heart disease may need to take extra precautions when air quality is poor,” said Catherine Elliott, Yukon’s deputy medical officer of health, in a statement.

Air pollution can irritate lungs and airways and make it harder to breathe. It can also aggravate diseases including bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and heart disease.

People who are active in sports or who do strenuous outdoor work may also be at higher risk.

At-risk populations are encouraged to reduce outdoor activities when the AQHI is at four or higher. The general population should consider reducing activities when the index measures seven or higher.

Air pollution in Whitehorse typically comes from vehicle use, wood stoves and oil furnaces, and occasionally from wildfire smoke.

But in general, Whitehorse’s air quality is very good. According to the most recent information from the Department of Health and Social Services, the average concentration of particulate matter in the city was 6.1 micrograms per cubic metre in 2013, well below the acceptable limit of 10 micrograms. As of this morning, the AQHI had not been higher than one for the previous 24 hours.

The Yukon has just one air quality monitoring station, in downtown Whitehorse. Currently, air quality information for the communities is not available, but the territory is working on a wildfire smoke air quality tool for the communities that will be available in the coming weeks.

Whitehorse’s AQHI can be found through the Government of Canada and the Weather Network websites. A free AQHI Canada smartphone app is also available.

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