What prematurely kills some 500 people in Ottawa every year, and about 14,600 in Canada?
It’s air pollution. How serious is that? As I stated in an opinion piece published in the Ottawa Citizen (see link below), that’s about as deadly as the COVID-19 pandemic. Halfway through 2020, about 240 people had died in Ottawa from the Covid-19 virus and about 7300 in Canada.
Of course, massive resources have been mobilized to deal with the pandemic, gripping our attention and stoking our fears every day. But isn’t it striking that without much public attention, an invisible killer causes about as many deaths every year, often from diseases like heart attacks, dementia and cancer that we would not think to relate to air pollution? There are even studies stating that one of every nine deaths worldwide is caused by air pollution. Now we know that air quality can vary dramatically from one place to another in our cities, meaning that many people are experiencing un-measured levels of risk without knowing it.
We can do something about it.
We need to address the fact that, starting with a newborn’s first breath, almost all of us are breathing contaminated air. Globally, only about 5% of us actually breathe healthy, fresh air. While Ottawa’s air is nowhere near as badly polluted as some of the world’s worst cities, like Delhi, India or Beijing, China, we believe Ottawa residents should know the state of their outdoor air quality (AQ), what its impact is on our personal health and what can be done to improve it. This new project aims to make a start in providing that information and instigating that improvement.
Announcing the Breathe EasyOttawa Air Quality Initiative
With great thanks to funding from the Ottawa Community Foundation, and partnering with Ecology Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, our new Breathe Easy Project aims to make Ottawa residents and institutions aware of the quality of the air that they and their families are breathing every day.
Our hope is that many people and organizations will join together to carry the project to its next, logical step: to learn more about the problem and to develop ways to improve the air quality in our nation’s capital – and perhaps beyond.
If you are in the Ottawa area, I’ll be asking for your help to make sure we are gathering as much information as possible. We will be looking for ways for local volunteers to help out to get the project off the ground. And once we are underway, we will be sharing results with you.
For more information about similar air quality projects, tune in to Ecology Ottawa's webinar featuring the INHALE project: Lynda Lukasik (Environment Hamilton) and Heather Marshall (Toronto Environmental Alliance) will share lessons learned from air quality monitoring projects in their cities. Join us on August 12th at 6pm to hear what Ottawa can learn from Hamilton and Toronto.
Until then, stay tuned, and stay safe,
Ottawa Air Quality Initiative Leader
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
P.S: This project is already making waves! Please read my OpEd in the Ottawa Citizen.