Air Quality and Health

There are many different types of air pollutants from a wide range of sources. The pollutants of greatest importance to health are the gases and particles that have been found to contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

Air Pollution and Your Health

Depending on the length of time you are exposed, your health status, your genetic background and the concentration of pollutants, air pollution can:

  • Irritate your lungs and airways
  • Make it harder to breathe
  • Worsen chronic diseases such as heart disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma

Negative health effects increase as air pollution worsens. Small increases in air pollution over a short period of time can increase symptoms of pre-existing illness among those at risk.

Air quality has an impact on the health of the general public and the at risk population who are more susceptible.

Who is At Risk?

At risk population may include:

Parents holding hands with daughter


Man stretching leg outdoors

People participating in
sports or strenuous
work outdoors

Girl with inhaler outdoors

People with lung disease,
heart disease or diabetes

Elderly couple on bicycles


What can I do to protect my health and the health of my family?

Refer to the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) regularly to check the air quality in your community before heading out.

When the AQHI reading rises or you experience symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing or irritated eyes, you can decide whether you need to:

  • Follow a doctor’s advice to manage existing conditions such as heart or lung disease
  • Monitor possible symptoms
  • Reduce or reschedule outdoor physical activities

You can keep up-to-date on health advisories related to air quality and other health issues on the Alberta Health Services website at:

Reducing Air Pollution

We all affect air quality. There are actions everyone can take to reduce air pollution, and keep the air cleaner and healthier for people to breathe.

When the AQHI is in the High or Very High-risk category, each of us can change our actions to pollute less. We can:

  • Burn less (fireplace, fire pit)
  • Carpool
  • Idle less
  • Take transit

You can learn more about how you can reduce air pollution.


Page Information

Updated: May 5, 2016