Federal Air Quality Health Index expansion good news for Canadians - Major Canadian health groups pleased with federal announcement about Air Quality Health Index expansion



    OTTAWA, June 9 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Cancer Society, The Lung
Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada are pleased by the
federal government's announcement on Friday, June 6, 2008, of the expansion of
the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in the Greater Toronto Area and in British
Columbia.
    The AQHI is a scale designed to help Canadians understand what the air
quality means to their health. It helps Canadians make decisions to protect
their health by limiting short-term exposure to air pollution and adjusting
activity levels appropriately.
    The AQHI is calculated based on the relative risks of a combination of
common air pollutants which are known to harm human health. These pollutants
include:

    - Ozone at ground level
    - Particulate matter (PM2.5/PM10)
    - Nitrogen Dioxide

    The AQHI has been developed by a multi-partner federal/provincial/NGO
committee over the last seven years and it is the first air quality index in
the world to be based on scientific health studies. It is an improvement on
existing indices, which have been based on the level of just one pollutant,
because it takes into account people's exposure to three common pollutants and
incorporates the related health risk.
    On March 6, 2008, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, The Lung Association
and the Canadian Cancer Society announced that they were joining in a
coalition to increase public attention and political action on environmental
health hazards. As part of that announcement, the coalition called on the
federal government to roll-out across the country a national Air Quality
Health Index (AQHI) to give Canadians in all parts of the country
easy-to-understand information daily on air quality, along with clear
recommendations for action to limit exposure to health threatening conditions.
    "The expansion of the AQHI is a positive step forward from a public
health point of view," said Nora Sobolov, President and CEO of The Lung
Association, "Air pollution presents a serious and growing threat to the
health of Canadians, especially to people suffering from respiratory illness,
heart ailments and other chronic diseases".
    "The expansion of the AQHI is a key ask from our coalition," said Sally
Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "We urge the federal government
to build on Friday's announcement by working with all provinces to implement
an AQHI across the country as soon as possible".
    Air pollution presents a serious and growing threat to the health of
Canadians, especially people suffering from respiratory illness, heart
ailments and other chronic diseases. A recent Health Canada study estimated
that air pollution leads to almost 6,000 premature deaths annually in eight
large Canadian cities. In Ontario alone poor air quality causes an estimated
17,000 hospital admissions and 60,000 emergency room visits annually,
according to a 2005 study for the Ontario Medical Association.
    The resulting economic cost is also high. The overall losses associated
with air pollution across the country are estimated at over $20 billion
annually, including direct health care costs and indirect costs related to
reduced productivity, lost work time and untimely deaths.
    "Friday's announcement by the federal government will help Canadians
living in these regions better understand how air quality can affect their
health so they can make informed choices about their outdoor activities" said
Dr. Barbara Whylie, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society.

    The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of
volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of
the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more
about cancer, visit our website at www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free
bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

    Established in 1900, The Lung Association (www.lung.ca) is one of
Canada's oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading national
organization for science-based information, research, education, support
programs and advocacy on lung health issues.

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation (www.heartandstroke.ca), a
volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke
and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its
application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.




For further information:

For further information: Alexa Giorgi, Canadian Cancer Society, (416)
934-5681, agiorgi@cancer.ca; Cameron Bishop, The Lung Association, (613)
569-6411 ext. 223, cbishop@lung.ca; Jane-Diane Fraser, Heart and Stroke
Foundation, (613) 569-4361 ext .273, jfraser@hsf.ca


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