An Update on the BreatheEasy Project: The Preliminary Report

In May, 2020, we received funding from the Ottawa Community Foundation to begin the BreatheEasy project and start measuring AQ across the city. With a team of volunteers, we have taken readings in all of Ottawa’s wards, primarily looking for ‘hot spots’ where the air pollution levels are potentially dangerous to our health.

One of our BreatheEasy team members, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, has prepared the attached short report summarizing our work to date. Hadrian is a climate policy expert concerned with the social and economic impacts of climate change. He lives with his family in Ottawa where he works for a non-profit policy research institute.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue the project in 2021.

Steven Scott, one of our Air Trackers team, has continued to check local AQ conditions where he lives in rural Ottawa just west of Manotick. Local farmers there tend to burn off the wood cut as forests are cleared to increase their cultivable land. Perhaps not surprisingly, periodically he is getting some high PM2.5 readings accompanied with localized, smog-like visibility.

I found a similar air pollution 'episode' in my neighbourhood, when I recorded some elevated PM2.5 readings resulting from neighbours using their wood burning fireplaces. It came as a surprise that apparently such urban wood smoke emissions can be serious and can even exceed vehicular emissions in some places, like Vancouver for example. So that nice woodsy smell is not really so nice.

We are looking forward to beginning testing more neighbourhoods across Ottawa and continuing to bring discussions of AQ issues to the forefront in the coming months. Stay tuned!

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