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Fresh system gives Albertans even better air quality information - July 13, 2011 (Alberta Environment)

Edmonton, Alberta - Alberta is adopting a modified federal Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to give Albertans the most timely and relevant information to plan their outdoor activities.

The Governments of Canada and Alberta have worked together to develop an air quality reporting system for Alberta that takes advantage of the forecasting aspects of the AQHI, while continuing to report more frequently and on more elements specific to Alberta’s air quality.

“Working together, Alberta and Canada have developed a tailor-made air quality reporting system for our province,” said Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner. “We’ve taken the federal government’s world-leading AQHI and made it even better for the needs of Albertans.”

The province’s former Air Quality Index measured two additional components to the federal system, unique to the province’s oil and gas industry. It also reported data hourly, rather than every three hours. Under Alberta’s adoption of the AQHI, these components and two others - hydrogen sulphide and total reduced sulphur - will be measured, while also giving Albertans notice when visibility is a concern and when odours may be detected. The hourly reporting frequency will be maintained.

With the addition of the forecasting feature of the AQHI, Albertans will be able to look at anticipated air quality for the current day, night and the following day and have access to the most comprehensive air quality information system in Canada.

“The Air Quality Health Index is the first tool of its kind in the world,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health. “Its success is the result of strong partnerships between the federal and provincial governments and key stakeholders who have a common interest in providing Canadians with access to information that can help them to protect their health.”

"I am pleased that the Government of Alberta is adopting the Air Quality Health Index, to ensure that Albertans continue to breathe easy," said Michelle Rempel, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. "This index allows Albertans to better understand the health risks associated with poor air quality. Our forecasts provide the basis for them to make informed choices about reducing those risks."

The AQHI works on a scale from 1 to 10 to determine the health risk for the general population and for those with respiratory conditions. The lower the number, the lower the health risk.

“Information can be very powerful when it comes to your health,” said Dr. André Corriveau, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Alberta enjoys good air quality most of the time, but it’s important that those who are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution have information at their fingertips to take precautions should air quality deteriorate."

The AQHI is now available in over 20 communities across Alberta.  The forecast component will first be available in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Fort McKay and Fort McMurray, with the remaining communities added later this year and in early 2012. For more information on the AQHI, visit www.airquality.alberta.ca.