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April 18, 2008
High health risk from air pollution forecast for today
Toronto Public Health is advising residents that the city is experiencing its first high health risk reading of 2008, according to the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI). Today’s index is expected to reach seven on a 10-point scale, a level at which air quality can pose a high health risk to residents, especially children, the elderly and those with heart and breathing problems.

“When the Air Quality Health Index reaches seven or above, people with heart or breathing problems should reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities,” said Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health. “Children, the elderly or anyone experiencing symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation should also take it easy.”

This is the second year that Toronto has used the AQHI, an index that measures the daily health risk from local air pollution, and gives those who are most vulnerable the information they need to protect themselves and the people in their care. Toronto is one of several sites in Canada pilot testing the index in 2008. AQHI forecasts are posted at and readings are updated hourly.

The AQHI measures air quality in relation to people’s health on a scale from one to 10. Higher numbers mean greater health risks and greater need for precautions. On rare occasions, the Air Quality Health Index may be 10+, indicating a very high health risk.

The AQHI helps people plan ahead by letting them know the best time of the day to be physically active and when to reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activity.

“The AQHI helps to protect our health, and also serves as a reminder of the need to protect our environment,” said Dr. McKeown. “Because cars and trucks, and our reliance on coal-fired power plants to generate electricity are major sources of air pollution in Toronto, reducing energy use can reduce the number of high AQHI days.”

Toronto Public Health’s “20/20 The Way to Clean Air” is designed to help individuals reduce home energy use and vehicle use by 20 per cent. Call 416-392-2020 for a copy of the 20/20 Planner, a free energy-reducing guide.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contact:
Susan Sperling, Media Relations Co-ordinator, 416-338-7974,



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