Air Quality

How climate change impacts the air we breathe. 

It is now well-established by researchers that climate change could result in a deterioration of several aspects of air quality, including:

  • An increase in air pollution levels—pollutants such as ozone and particles of different sizes (particulate matter, or PM).
  • More frequent or severe air pollution and heat episodes—which together, have an even greater impact. 
  • Increased emissions from the natural environment—such as from fires and dust.
  • An increase in aeroallergen levels—substances in the air, like pollen, that can cause allergic reactions. 

Who is at risk

Air quality is most likely to cause health problems in vulnerable groups, such as:

  • Older adults;
  • Children;
  • Pregnant women;
  • People with chronic diseases (e.g. Asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes);
  • People of lower socio-economic status—living conditions may expose them to higher levels of pollution and they may not be able to avoid exposure during extreme heat/pollution episodes.

Copied with permission from: Health Canada

1 Canadian Institute for Health Information (2018). Asthma hospital stays by children and youth. Retrieved from: https://www.cihi.ca/en/asthma-hospital-stays-by-children-and-youth

2 Asthma.ca (n.d.) Infants and Children: Asthma in infants and children. Retrieved from:  https://www.asthma.ca/get-help/asthma-3/control/infants-and-children/

3 Asthma Society of Canada https://asthma.ca/get-help/asthma-3/triggers-3/common-asthma-triggers/

4 Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Canada – An estimate of premature mortalities http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2018/sc-hc/H144-51-2017-eng.pdf “In Canada and internationally, health impact estimates identify air pollution as one of the most important risk factors for premature mortality. “

5 Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). Climate Change Toolkit for Health Professionals: Module 3 – Climate Change Health Impacts across Canada. April 2019