Public Health Ontario has conducted the most comprehensive review to date of air quality indices in Canada. Using data from Ontario, the Review of Air Quality Index and Air Quality Health Index report examines the strengths and limitations of these two indices of air and presents evidence to inform future directions regarding their use.
Many jurisdictions have developed numerical indices of air quality, and the Air Quality Index (AQI) and the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) are being used as indicators of ambient levels of air pollution in Canada. These indices characterize ambient levels of air pollution present at a given time, and they serve as the basis for communicating the health significance of air pollution to the public. Although the two indices have been used concurrently over five years, to date no one has undertaken a comprehensive review of the comparability of the indices. This review provides useful input to policy-makers in making decisions on the tools or indices they’d like to use for summarizing short-term air pollution.
An important finding from the report is the limitation of both indices: The AQI and AQHI do not recognize health effects associated with long-term exposure to air pollution. This report is a first step at looking at the broader issue of the health effects of air.
The report was authored by Dr. Ray Copes, chief, Environmental and Occupational Health, and Dr. Hong Chen, scientist, Environmental Health Assessment, both of Public Health Ontario.