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POLLUTION:

Only two smog days in Ontario in 2013, so far

By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer

There has not been one smog day in Sarnia-Lambton this year and only two in Ontario, putting the province on pace for the fewest in a decade. The province has seen fewer smog advisories since peaking at 53 in 2005. Pictured is a smog-filled skyline in Sarnia from that year. THE OBSERVER/QMI AGENCY

There has not been one smog day in Sarnia-Lambton this year and only two in Ontario, putting the province on pace for the fewest in a decade. The province has seen fewer smog advisories since peaking at 53 in 2005. Pictured is a smog-filled skyline in Sarnia from that year. THE OBSERVER/QMI AGENCY

Ontario has had a nearly smog day-free summer, so far.

Only one smog advisory, lasting two days, has been declared by Ontario's Environment Ministry, and it covered Toronto and communities to the east.

There have been no smog days in Sarnia-Lambton, or the rest of southwestern Ontario.

Last year, Ontario had 30 smog days and Sarnia-Lambton had 18.

Elsewhere in the province, Windsor, Essex, Chatham-Kent had 24 smog days in 2012, London 18, Toronto 16 and Ottawa two.

So far, 2013 is Ontario's most smog day-free summer in the past decade.

"In recent years, the trend has been fewer smog days," said ministry spokesperson Kate Jordan.

"That's a result of reduced levels of smog-causing pollutants."

That includes two main ingredients of smog — fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, Jordan said.

"In the last several years, we've seen a 27% reduction in fine particulate matter, as well as a 37% reduction in nitrogen dioxide."

Connie Choy, air quality co-ordinator for the Ontario Lung Association, said tougher industry standards in the province are helping.

She also credits Ontario's Drive Clean emissions testing program that is aimed at pulling polluting cars and trucks off the roads, and the province's move to shut down coal power plants.

"All these reasons lead to less emissions and better air quality," Choy said.

A mostly smog day-free summer is particularly good news for those with lung disease, she said.

"If they're outside running errands, they get around a lot better and they don't have to struggle as much, especially if they have asthma or COPD."

The ministry says it monitors air pollution levels for 37 forecast regions and issues smog advisories when there is a strong likelihood of widespread, elevated and persistent smog levels.

In the last decade, 2005 had the most smog days with 53 across the province. Sarnia-Lambton, and much of the rest of southwestern Ontario, had 46 smog days that year.

Elsewhere in the province that year, Toronto had 48 smog days and Ottawa 25.

In 2007, another active year for smog days, Ontario had a total of 39. The total dropped to just five in 2009.

While emissions in Ontario have been dropping, the ministry notes more than half of the province's smog originates in the U.S.

"If we do have the winds from the southwest, those carry that dirtier air into Ontario," Jordan said.

Ministry forecasters consider the weather, along with pollution levels, when they issue smog advisories

"If we have the right weather conditions, mainly sun, wind from the southwest and stagnant air pressure, we're more likely to see smog," Jordan said.

The advisories are issued for so residents can act to protect their health from poor air quality, Jordan said.

"Anyone with medical conditions, like asthma, or respiratory problems or hearth problems, we advise them to stay indoors and avoid physical activity or exercise."

The ministry also asks residents to reduce pollution on those days, including taking public transit instead of their car, and not running lawn mowers.

The smog season typically runs from May to September, Jordan said.

Smog days in Ontario:

2013 - 2 (so far)

2012 - 30

2011 - 9

2010 - 12

2009 - 5

2008 - 17

2007 - 39

2006 - 17

2005 - 53

2004 - 20

2003 - 19

Source, Ontario Ministry of the Environment

paul.morden@sunmedia.ca

 

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