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November 8, 2001
Medical Community Calls for Changes to Smog Warning System
Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, today released a report
calling on the Ontario government to make changes to Ontario's Air Quality
Index (AQI).

Dr. Basrur said the results of the study "Condition Critical - Fixing Our Smog Warning System" show that 92 per cent of Toronto's smog-related premature deaths
and hospitalizations occur when the city's air quality is classified as "good
or "very good" by the AQI.

"The AQI information is misleading and does not reflect the real health risks
associated with existing air pollution. It is a bit like a smoke detector that
only goes off if there is a full-blown fire - we are not given enough warning
to protect ourselves."

The AQI was designed to act as a warning system when air pollution is bad
enough to affect public health. It is used to trigger the city of Toronto's
smog response plan and to advise vulnerable populations such as children, the
elderly and people with asthma or heart disease.

Dr. Basrur outlined a five point action plan to fix the AQI. "I want to stress
the critical importance of making public information messages more accurate. We
want to work with all our partners to help alert vulnerable populations when
air quality is bad, but we must have confidence the AQI scale accurately
reflects health risk."

Dr. Basrur was joined by Dr. Ted Boadway, Director of Health Policy at the
Ontario Medical Association and Dr. Alan Abelsohn, Chair of the Environmental
Committee of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. Both organizations
participated in the study's scientific advisory committee, along with
provincial and federal officials and representatives from environmental groups.

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