Here's how to improve outdoor air quality

Here's how to improve outdoor air quality


Several solutions exist to improve the quality of our air. If certain actions depend on political decisions and require the mobilization of citizens, as in Rouyn-Noranda or Limoilou, small gestures can also contribute.

Wood heating, transportation and industries are the three main causes of fine particle 2.5 emissions in Quebec.

Despite the fact that this pollutant causes the premature death of some 2,800 people each year in Quebec, the CAQ government does not intend to tighten the standard while the WHO urges countries to take the situation seriously.

Several actions are possible, here are a few.

< p>Wood heating

• Cities can regulate the use of wood stoves, and Montreal's work over the past 10 years shows that improvements in this direction are possible.

The City of Terrebonne intends to do so . The only air quality measurement station on its territory, located near an elementary school in a residential area, reveals high concentrations of fine particles 2.5. However, many combustion stoves are located in this sector.

“We are currently working on a project to regulate fireplaces in all new construction, explains Véronik Gravel, attached to the office of the mayor of Terrebonne. This draft by-law would also contain an incentive for citizens who wish to close or convert their existing homes.”

At this stage, the City could not say what the amount of this incentive will be or when the project will be passed, but she's aiming for this spring.

• Until cities adopt regulations, you can follow Health Canada's recommendation, which suggests using wood-burning appliances only when necessary and, if you must heat with wood, equip yourself with a appliance certified by the EPA.

• Johanne Elsener, president of the organization Santé Urbanité, also reminds us of the importance of replacing gas, oil or oil furnaces with heating systems electricity in residences and institutional buildings.


• We don't teach you anything, but using public transit and active transportation (cycling and walking) reduces polluting emissions related to transportation. Carpooling is also a solution to limit the number of cars on the road.

• Johanne Elsener says that we also need safe infrastructure, but also remote services accessible by active transportation. “We need to rethink the layout of cities so that citizens can go grocery shopping on foot, for example,” she says.

• For rail transport, locomotives burn highly polluting fuel oil. Some American cities thus ban these locomotives on their territory and require hybrid diesel-electric, hydrogen or 100% electric trains. “We are far from that here,” laments Johanne Elsener. 

The Task Force on Atmospheric Contaminants appointed by the Legault government to look into air quality in the Limoilou district of Quebec, on which Ms. Elsener sat, recommends that these less polluting locomotives be mandatory and that they only use electric mode for portions of the journey in urban areas.

Urban planning

• Municipalities must make urban neighborhoods more green and s ensure that there is a better distribution of planted trees. Air pollution is lower in very green neighborhoods and life expectancy is higher, Elsener points out.

“You have to increase the proportion of conifers,” she adds, because they keep their needles in winter and retain their ability to capture gases.

“A street with trees encourages people more to walk […] and exercise more, so they are less sick, stressed and there is less depression,” she says.

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Here's how to improve outdoor air quality

Here's how to improve outdoor air quality

  Measuring station

Here's how to improve outdoor air quality



Sources: Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, data from the Water Quality Monitoring Network website Air du Québec (RSQAQ), Air Quality Monitoring Network (RSQA) of the City of Montreal, World Health Organization (WHO).

The number of poor air quality days was calculated for PM2.5, ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) based on Ministry of Health thresholds. Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MELCC). Some stations do not calculate these contaminants and measure others for which we have not found a threshold.

For PM2.5, this is the number of days when at least one times during the day, the three-hour average was above 35 µg/m3. The annual average of PM2.5 and sulfur dioxide (SO2) was calculated by taking the average of the hourly concentrations recorded during the year.

For the annual average of the Lac-Édouard and Sherbrooke stations – Parc Cambron, daily averages were used instead of hourly data.

The WHO standard is used on the map for stations measuring fine particles. For sulfur dioxide, this is the Canadian standard.