Cross-Border Air Pollution
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Develop Strategies to Reduce Cross-Border Air Pollution

The following actions are needed to complete this objective:

  • ​Advocate for Windsor’s local air quality issues at the regional, provincial, and federal levels in the United States and Canada and with industry representatives
  • Gather air quality baseline information for comparison purposes. Publish and track in the Report on the State of the Environment
  • Identify partnerships with other agencies, governments and businesses
  • Liaise with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to increase environmental testing and compliance within the city

These indicators show the progress the City is making to achieve this objective:

  • Number of Low Risk Air Quality Health Index Days
  • Number of Special Air Quality Statement Days and Smog and Air Health Advisory Days
  • Ground Level Ozone

Air Quality Health Index Indicator

What Is The Air Quality Health Index And What Does It Mean?

Globe in grass with blue skiesIn June 2015, the Province of Ontario introduced the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to replace the Air Quality Index (AQI), which had been used since 2003. The AQI measured concentrations of 6 air pollutants to provide an indication of air quality conditions on a 1-100+ scale. The new AQHI, developed in collaboration with Health Canada, provides the supplemental context of what air quality conditions, measured on a 1-10+ scale, mean for your health and what activity modifications are sensible given current conditions.

Using a network of 40 state-of-the art air monitoring stations, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) takes real-time air quality data from the monitoring sites and produces AQHI readings for each location. The City of Windsor is currently served by two monitoring stations, one located in west Windsor and one located downtown.

Three pollutants were chosen as indicators of the overall outdoor air mixture: ground level ozone, fine particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide. The AQHI, which pays particular attention to people who are sensitive to air pollution, helps individuals make decisions to protect their health by limiting short-term exposure to air pollution and adjusting their activity levels during increased levels of air pollution. It also provides advice on how residents can improve air quality in their local community.

The table below provides the health messages for each category of the AQHI for the “at risk” and general populations.

Health Risk Air Quality Health Index Health Messages: At Risk Population ​Health Messages: General Population
Low 1-3 Enjoy your usual outdoor activities. Ideal air quality for outdoor activities.
Moderate 4-6 Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms. No need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
High 7-10 Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also take it easy. Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
Very High 10+ Avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion. Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.

Smog is a form of air pollution. It is a complex mixture of air pollutants that is sometimes visible in the air as a brownish-yellow haze over cities. Smog can be caused by a build-up of either ground-level ozone (O3) or tiny particles of soot known as particulate matter (PM). Smog can form in almost any climate where industries or cities release large amounts of air pollution. However, it is worse during periods of warmer and sunnier weather.

With the launch of the new AQHI, the AQI and subsequent Smog Alert program has been discontinued and Smog Advisory Days based on AQI values will no longer be issued. In place of the Smog Alert program, a new air quality alerting system is now in effect based on the values reported by the AQHI. Subscribers to the Smog Alert program will be automatically transferred to the new alerting system. The results of the AQHI will be communicated through the new air quality alerting system as follows:

Special Air Quality Statements (SAQS): When the Air Quality Health Index is forecast to reach, or has reached the high risk category for one to two hours, a SAQS will be issued. A SAQS will also be issued if the AQHI has not reached the high risk category, but there is an air quality concern for a particular area that is expected to last for at least three hours.

Smog and Air Health Advisory (SAHA): For situations where the AQHI is forecast to reach, or has reached, the high risk category and is expected to last for at least three hours, a SAHA will be issued.

Termination Notice: A termination notice is issued once the smog and air health advisory has ended.

The City of Windsor experienced one SAQS in 2015, but because of methodology differences, this is not directly comparable to the declining number of Smog Advisory Days, seen below.

The MOECC publishes the air quality health index daily on their Air Quality Ontario website. This website also reports up-to-date hourly data. A new mapping feature allows the viewer to compare data across Ontario.

Low Risk Air Quality in Windsor (2015 and 2016):

Graph of low risk air quality days, 2015 and 2016

Above graph shows an increasing trend in the number of good or very good air quality health index days since AQHI reporting.

Good or Very Good Air Quality in Windsor (2007-2014):

Number of good or very good air quality days 

As seen in the graph, the number of good or very good air quality days (below 32 on Air Quality Index scale) in Windsor has remained about the same.

Air Quality Health Index Advisories in Windsor (2015 and 2016)

Chart of air quality health index advisories, 2015 and 2016

As seen in the graph above, the number of special air quality statement days and smog and air health advisory days has remained at a constant 0 and 1, respectively, since AQHI reporting for both the years of 2015 and 2016.

Smog Advisories in Windsor (2007-2014):

Number of smog advisory days in Windsor has decreased since 2007 

As seen in the graph above, the number of AQI smog advisory days per year has declined.

What influences our air quality?

Local industrial pollution, electricity generation, home heating, cross-border emissions and emissions from transportation corridors are some of the sources of air pollution in the city.

An inventory of air pollutants compiled in 2006 by Environment and Climate Change Canada indicates the "off-road use of gasoline" is a major source of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. For more on this topic visit the Lawnmowers and Small Gas Engines web page.

Transportation-related air quality issues remain paramount in the City of Windsor. In 2010, Windsorites travelled 2,301,173,086 vehicle kilometres.

What is the City of Windsor doing to improve air quality?

  • Anti-Idling By-Law #233-2001 to Prohibit Excessive Idling of Vehicles and Boats (see By-Laws Online) was passed on June 18, 2001. According to this by-law, any person who causes or permits a vehicle or boat to idle more than five minutes in an hour is guilty of an offence.
  • The Southwestern Ontario Clean Air Council was developed (the initiating municipalities of London, Woodstock and Windsor) as a collaboration of municipalities and health units focusing on issues surrounding air quality in Southwestern Ontario. The members will share resources, collaborate on regional initiatives and lobby other levels of government on air quality issues. A similar group called the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Clean Air Council was formed 10 years ago with similar objectives. Both Clean Air Councils are administered by the Clean Air Partnership.
  • Transit Windsor currently operates 29 hybrid buses, which decreases fuel consumption and therefore reduces air pollution caused by buses. They have also implemented the Smart Driver for Transit program. The intent of the program is to reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions by educating drivers on how the engine uses fuel, how exhaust emissions affect the environment, how fuel use affects engine maintenance and how much fuel might be saved through fuel-efficient driving.
  • In 2012, City Council approved the Greening of the City Fleet Plan. This plan aims to reduce the effects of vehicle fuel consumption on air quality by implementing a number of measures: minimizing the size of our fleet, ensuring vehicles are the appropriate size for the job, introducing hybrid vehicles and conducting fuel efficient driver training and preventative maintenance programs. In addition, automatic shut-offs are a standard feature on heavy equipment and an anti-idling device pilot program was recently implemented on gasoline pickup trucks. The corporate fleet has been downsized by 8% since 2009. Windsor Police Services and our corporate fleet operate nine and one hybrid vehicles respectively.
  • Windsor's Smog Action Plan (excerpt from the Air Quality Action Plan, 2000)

What can you do to help improve Windsor’s Air Quality?

At home:

  • Reducing your electricity needs will help the Province of Ontario fulfill their promise of closing all coal power plants in Ontario. To learn more on how to reduce your electricity needs see Goal D: Use Resources Efficiently.
  • Avoid the use of oil-based paints, paint thinners, or other solvents: use water-based latex paints and primers when redecorating your home.

On the road:

  • Take Transit Windsor, walk, and/or ride your bike to your destination.
  • Don't be a lead foot. Hard acceleration and speeding wastes fuel. For highway driving, every 10 km/h above the speed limit increases the amount of gas burned by 10 percent.
  • Maintain your car regularly by following your manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule. Poorly tuned engines and loose gas tank caps significantly increase pollution from cars.
  • Retire that old beater: newer cars have significantly lower (up to 75 percent lower) tailpipe emissions than older cars. Check out Car Heaven for incentives.
  • Avoid idling. It wastes gas, creates pollution and causes wear and tear on your engine. Take special precautions on school grounds to protect children from unnecessary air pollution from cars that idle in pick up lines. See the City of Windsor’s Anti-Idling By-law at By-laws Online for more information.
  • Avoid the drive-through window. In addition to excessive idling, during peak times with long line-ups, it is often faster to park your car and order your beverage or food over the counter.
  • Avoid filling your gas tank during hot summer days and smog advisories. If you must, fill up your tank in the evening or at night.

In the garden:

  • Don't use gasoline-powered lawnmowers or garden tools during hot summer days and smog advisories.
  • Replace old gasoline-powered lawnmowers or garden tools, preferably with manual or rechargeable electric power tools: an old lawn mower can emit as much air pollution as 40 new cars running at the same time.
  • Avoid applying any pesticides during smog advisories.

Ground Level Ozone Indicator

What is Ground Level Ozone?

Ozone (O3) is a colourless, odourless gas at ambient concentrations and is a major component of smog. Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the atmosphere. It results from photochemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. Human activities including transportation, burning of fossil fuels, general solvent use, surface coatings (paint) and other processes are the major sources of VOCs in the urban area.

Ozone levels tend to peak in summer, during mid-afternoon in the city, and during late afternoon to early evening in rural areas downwind of cities. Ground-level ozone is primarily a problem in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor and, to a lesser extent, in the southern Atlantic region and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

Ozone concentrations are monitored by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and are also used in the calculation of the Air Quality Health Index. For more information on the Air Quality Health Index, visit the Air Quality Health Index Indicator page.

Ground Level Ozone should not be confused with the stratospheric ozone layer, which acts as a natural filter blocking out the suns harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

What are the effects of ground level ozone?

Ozone irritates the respiratory tract and eyes. Exposure to high levels of ozone results in chest tightness, coughing and wheezing. People with respiratory and heart problems are at a higher risk. Ozone has been linked to increased hospital admissions and premature death. Ozone causes agricultural crop loss each year in Ontario and noticeable leaf damage in many crops, garden plants and trees.

How are we doing? 

The Ontario 1-hour AAQC (Ambient Air Quality Criteria) for ozone is 80 ppb.

Periods of 1-hour exceedences of ground level ozone:

Number of One-hour exceedences of acceptable Ground level ozone concentrations declining

As seen in the graph above, the number of one-hour exceedences of acceptable ground level ozone concentrations, as set by the MOECC, has declined.

For more information on Environmental Initiatives

  • Phone: For general inquiries, call 311.  For detailed inquiries, call 519-253-7111 ext. 3226.
  • Email: emp@citywindsor.ca​