Air Quality Health Index - A Promising Public Health Tool
In order to protect public health from the impacts of air pollution, several government and non-government agencies at all levels have been working on tools and strategies to inform the public on how to monitor, assess and reduce their public health risks due to air pollution. Since 2001, Environment Canada and Health Canada have been developing a national, health risk-based index – known as the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) – through a multi-stakeholder process involving the provinces, municipalities and members from the health and environmental non-government organization community.
The Air Quality Health Index will help Canadians better understand how to protect their health from local air pollution on a daily, or even hourly, basis. This is similar to the UV Index that helps Canadians protect themselves from sun exposure. The AQHI assesses the cumulative health impact of ground-level ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to calculate an index number from 1 to 10+.
In August 2010 the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors, Ontario Branch (CIPHI), and the Association of Supervisors of Public Health Inspectors of Ontario (ASPHIO) wrote a letter to request that the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care:
1) Support an expansion of the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) across the Province,
2) Support replacement of the Air Quality Index (AQI) with the AQHI to eliminate public confusion about these public awareness tools, and
3) Take a lead role in province-wide promotion of the AQHI as a public health tool.