Air pollution risk greater than shown

The briefs article, Air quality risk moderate, in the Feb. 8 Advocate, notes that pollution levels in Red Deer can reach a level of four or even five on a scale of 10.

The briefs article, Air quality risk moderate, in the Feb. 8 Advocate, notes that pollution levels in Red Deer can reach a level of four or even five on a scale of 10.

This has to be a concern as children, seniors and residents with heart or lung disease can suffer ill-effects at this level. Checking on the research, it is questionable whether there is a safe level of air pollution and we would all probably lead a longer and healthier life if air pollution levels were reduced to the lowest practical level.

A huge problem with relying on data from a monitoring unit is that pollution levels can be many times higher than the readings at the unit indicate. For example, the level of exposure to pollutants can be much higher on busy streets or truck routes. In this regard, the level of pollutants on Ross Street are routinely three times higher than the level indicated by the monitoring unit.

Monitoring fails completely, with regard to residential wood burning as a family can be exposed to high levels of smoke and carcinogens pouring into their homes from a neighbour’s chimney while the pollutants dissipate before reaching a monitoring unit. Most of the emails I receive, from across Canada, have nothing to do with the Air Quality Health Index but are from families whose health is being affected by a neighbour’s wood smoke.

It is troubling that the city’s Environmental Master Plan (EMP) includes no effective clean air measures or effective monitoring. Avoiding monitoring for the carcinogens known to be present in the Red Deer air is particularly disturbing. Unfortunately, the EMP is a “green” document and there is no record of green measures being effective in either reducing greenhouse emissions or urban air pollution.

Municipalities around the world that care for the environment have dramatically reduced air pollution by eliminating urban wood and coal burning and introducing mandatory emission tests for vehicles. These measures do result in some inconvenience for residents but a healthier environment is worth the inconvenience. Alberta’s cities need to borrow ideas from more environmentally-conscious cities, if for no other reason than our already fragile health-care system will be severely strained by the cost of treating pollution-related diseases.

Alan Smith

Alberta director

Canadian Clean Air Alliance

Red Deer

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