Red Deer has some of the best air in the world, according to a new World Health Organization report.
The organization compared air quality from nearly 1,100 cities across 91 countries by determining the annual average of particulate matter found in a cubic metre of air.
Canada and Australia were tied at third place for having the purest air worldwide, following only Mauritius and Estonia, in the report released on Monday.
Medicine Hat has the cleanest air of the nine Alberta communities included in the database. Red Deer tied for second place with Lethbridge, Edson and Grande Prairie.
Calgary and Fort McMurray tied for third and Edmonton came in fourth. Drayton Valley was found to be the most polluted city in Alberta.
Whitehorse, Yukon, was found to be the least polluted city in the world.
Kevin Warren wasn’t surprised to learn Red Deer has some of the cleanest air in the world, but the regional air quality expert said precautions must be taken to ensure Central Albertans continue to breathe easy into the future.
“The value that they’re reporting confirms what you and I see most days,” said Warren, executive director of the Parkland Airshed Management Zone.
“Most of the time the air quality in Red Deer is very good. The air here generally doesn’t have a smell and it doesn’t have a taste.”
The WHO database examines two sizes of particles — those smaller than 2.5 micrograms in diameter, or PM2.5, and those smaller than 10 micrograms in diameter, or PM10.
Both of these small particles cause health issues and can enter the lungs and bloodstream.
WHO estimates that more than two million people die from breathing in air pollutants every year.
The international health agency recommends a maximum average of 20 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre. Red Deer has a pollution level of seven while the most polluted city in the world — Ahwaz, Iran — has level of 372.
But anticipated growth in Red Deer could result in increasing levels of pollution if we don’t tread carefully, Warren warned.
“The big thing for us, with the growth that is projected for the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, what we want to do is really focus on maintaining the good air quality that we have.
“Good air quality is worth preserving. One of the things we enjoy here is a good quality of life. If we want that with all of the growth that’s projected, we have to accept responsibility for our own contributions to these emissions and do whatever we can do to reduce our footprint.”
Relying less on motor vehicles — the biggest sources of air pollution in cities — is imperative if air quality is to remain at a good level, Warren said. Car pooling, public transportation and avoiding excessive idling are ways to cut back on vehicle emissions.
He also suggested everyone reduce, reuse and recycle more to decrease the demand on energy needed to produce goods.
And urban planning must focus on creating a walkable community to encourage residents to use vehicles less, Warren said.
— copyright Red Deer Advocate