The average person takes about 20,000 breaths a day. That’s an amazing 10,000 litres of air that pass through your lungs every day! Wouldn’t it be helpful to know how all that air affects your health – and when it is best to be active? Now you can.
The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a national health-based index that will help Canadians better understand how to protect their health from local air pollution on a daily, or even hourly, basis.
The AQHI helps individuals make decisions to protect their health by providing information on the level of risk associated with pollution levels and identifying those at risk.
AQHI readings for the Greater Toronto Area are updated several times a day and can be found at www.airhealth.ca
AQHI: From 1 to 10
1-3 Low Health Risk
At Risk Population*: Enjoy your usual outdoor activities.
General Population: Ideal air quality for outdoor activities.
4-6 Moderate Health Risk
At Risk Population*: Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms.
General Population: No need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
7-10 High Health Risk
At Risk Population
*: Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also take it easy.
General Population: Consider reducing or rescheduling activities outdoors if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
When the Air Quality Health Index is above 10 children the elderly and those with heart or breathing problems should avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Everyone should reduce or reschedule physical activities outdoors.
More Than a Number
The Air Quality Health Index is more than just a number – It’s a tool that helps you plan a healthy day. Since strenuous activities increase the amount of air you breathe, the Air Quality Health Index can help you decide when to enjoy the benefits of physical activity and when to reduce or reschedule your activity. The Air Quality Health Index number is calculated based on the relative risks of a combination of common air pollutants that are known to harm human health (particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5; ground level ozone; and nitrogen oxide) at a given time and converts it to a 1-10+ scale.
Everyone is Unique
The Air Quality Health Index also recognizes that air quality affects everyone in different ways. For example a reading of 5 would have a different meaning for those with asthma or other respiratory of cardiovascular problems than for those who don’t. As you use the Air Quality Health Index, you will learn how the different numbers affect you and what actions you can take to protect yourself.
Protecting Health and the Environment
While the Air Quality Health Index can help protect your health, it also reminds us that we need to protect the environment. If everyone were to reduce energy use, we would reduce the number of days when the Air Quality Health Index is high. 20/20 The Way to Clean Air is a campaign designed to help you reduce home energy use and vehicle use by 20%. Get your free 20/20 Planner to learn more about how you can reduce energy use at home and on the road. To learn more about the AQHI visit GTA Public Health Units’ AQHI websites: