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  • 625 Church StreetSuite 402Toronto, OntarioCanada M4Y 2G1

    tel. 416-926-1907fax 416-926-1601

    www.pollutionprobe.org

    THESMOGPRIMER

  • June 2002

    Pollution Probe is pleased to present this primer on smog. We receive more telephone calls, e-mails,letters and media inquiries on smog than on any other subject. The Smog Primer has been developedto build public understanding of the sources of smog pollutants, their effects on human health, and thethings we can do to reduce smog pollution and protect ourselves and our children from harm.

    We are especially pleased to publicly release The Smog Primer on the tenth anniversary of PollutionProbes Clean Air Campaign and Commute. This annual event engages thousands of employees in aconcerted effort to leave their cars at home or to commute to and from work by cleaner forms oftransportation. The Smog Primer also complements our new workplace trip reduction programme,called S.M.A.R.T. (Save Money and the Air by Reducing Trips). The S.M.A.R.T. manual can be foundon our web site at www.pollutionprobe.org/Publications/Air.htm.

    Pollution Probe is dedicated to making positive, tangible progress in cleaning the air we breathe. Thisis essential for our health and well-being, and it is a goal that we can achieve. Please join us in advocatingfor a clean environment and make personal choices that show your commitment to this worthwhileendeavour.

    Ken OgilvieExecutive Director

    POLLUTION PROBE IS A NON-PROFIT CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION THAT WORKSin partnership with all sectors of society to protect health by promoting clean air and clean water.Pollution Probe was established in 1969 following a gathering of 240 students and professors at theUniversity of Toronto campus to discuss a series of disquieting pesticide-related stories that hadappeared in the media. Early issues tackled by Pollution Probe included urging the Canadian govern-ment to ban DDT for almost all uses, and campaigning for the clean-up of the Don River in Toronto.We encouraged curbside recycling in 140 Ontario communities and supported the development of theBlue Box programme. Pollution Probe has published several books, including Profit from Pollution Preven-tion, The Green Consumer Guide (of which more than 225,000 copies were sold across Canada) andAdditive Alert.

    Since the 1990s, Pollution Probe has focused its programmes on issues related to air pollution andhuman health, including a major programme to remove human sources of mercury from the environment.Pollution Probes scope has recently expanded to new concerns, including the unique risks that envi-ronmental contaminants pose to children, the health risks related to exposures within indoor environ-ments, and the development of innovative tools for promoting responsible environmental behaviour. Workhas also begun on building a comprehensive water programme that will update our understanding of watermanagement issues and define a set of goals and measures for achieving them.

    Since 1993, as part of our ongoing commitment to improving air quality, Pollution Probe has held anannual Clean Air Campaign during the month of June to raise awareness of the relationships amongvehicle emissions, smog, climate change and related human respiratory problems. The Clean Air Campaignhelped the Ontario Ministry of the Environment develop a mandatory vehicle emissions testing programme.

    Pollution Probe offers innovative and practical solutions to environmental issues pertaining to airand water pollution. In defining environmental problems and advocating practical solutions, we drawupon sound science and technology, mobilize scientists and other experts, and build partnerships withindustry, governments and communities.

    the smog primer i

  • ii the smog primer iii

    Smog Primer Table of ContentsAcknowledgementsPollution Probe gratefully acknowledges the funding and/or in-kind support and technical review ofThe Smog Primer by the following organizations:

    ENVIRONMENT CANADAHEALTH CANADAJANEY S. MILLS P. ENG. MEMORIAL FUNDONTARIO MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT

    Pollution Probe is solely responsible for the contents of this report.

    This publication was researched and written for Pollution Probe by OLIVIA NUGENT. The updated materialon Air Quality Indices and Air Quality Advisories (pages 34 through 41) was researched and written byJOHN HEWINGS.

    We appreciate the work of staff members ELIZABETH EVERHARDUS for managing the project, KENOGILVIE, QUENTIN CHIOTTI and SANDRA SCHWARTZ for providing information and advice, and KRISTAFRIESEN for helping with production and logistical support.

    Special thanks are given to JOHN HEWINGS and WAYNE DRAPER for providing technical comments onthe primer.

    Pollution Probe gratefully acknowledges SHAUNA RAE for design & layout and RANDEE HOLMES for editingthis publication.

    The LAIDLAW FOUNDATION is also specially acknowledged for its generous support of Pollution ProbesAir Programme.

    Prepared for Pollution Probe by OLIVIA NUGENT.

    Foreword..................................................iAcknowledgements .................................ii

    CHAPTER 1: What is Smog?......................2Introduction ............................................2What is Smog and How is it Formed? ......3Smog Pollutants and Their Sources..........4Transportation: A Major Contributor to Smog..................................................7

    CHAPTER 2: Why is Smog a Concern? .....12Smog and Human Health .......................12Health Effects of Smog Pollutants .........14Smogs Hazardous Journey Through the Body ..................................16Smog and Mortality...............................17Who is Affected by Smog? ....................18A Global Health Perspective ..................20Environmental Impacts of Smog.............20Economic Impacts of Smog ...................22Climate Change and Smog.....................23

    CHAPTER 3: Factors Affecting Smog .......26Seasonal/Daily Conditions.....................27Local Weather Conditions ......................27Topography............................................28Urban and Rural Factors ........................28Transboundary Air Pollution ...................29

    CHAPTER 4: Getting Information on AirQuality and Smog Pollutants..................32Air Monitoring Stations..........................33Air Quality Indices .................................34Air Quality Advisories ............................38Criteria Air Contaminants Emissions (CACE) Inventory ..................................42National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) ...................................42PollutionWatch......................................43

    CHAPTER 5: Whats Being Done About Smog? ........................................46What are the Federal and ProvincialGovernments Doing Jointly?...................47What is the Government of Canada Doing?......................................48What are Provincial Governments Doing? .............................49What are Municipal Governments Doing? .............................51What is Industry Doing? ........................52

    CHAPTER 6: What You Can Do To Reduce Smog........................................54Getting Around......................................55At Home ...............................................57At Work ................................................58

    References............................................61Useful Web sites ...................................63

  • the smog primer 2

    What is Smog?IntroductionEvery day, the average adult breathes about 15,000 to 20,000 litres

    of air. Air is a mixture of gases that makes up our atmosphere and is vital

    to life on earth. It largely consists of oxygen (21%) and nitrogen (78%).

    However, as a result of both natural and human processes, the atmos-

    phere also contains a number of gases that, at elevated concentrations,

    can be a health threat to people and animals and damaging to plants.

    These gases include ground-level ozone (O3), nitrogen oxides (NOx),

    sulphur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO), as well as a range of

    organic gases and vapours referred to as volatile organic compounds

    (VOCs). The atmosphere also contains tiny particles, known as partic-

    ulate matter (PM), that may be either solid or liquid. All of these poten-

    tially toxic gases and substances are together referred to as air pollu-

    tants. Combined, they are the principal ingredients of smog.

    chapter one

  • 3 chapter one: what is smog?3 chapter one: what is smog? the smog primer 4

    The term smog was first used more than fivedecades ago to describe a mixture of smoke andfog in the air.Today smog refers to a noxiousmixture of vapours, gases and particles that oftenappears as a yellowish-brown haze in the air.

    Smog is formed in the lower atmosphere, justabove the Earths surface when a variety ofsources release smog forming pollutants into theair.These pollutants are usually warmer than thesurrounding air and tend to rise.While beingdispersed by the wind, heat and sunlight causechemical reactions to occur between pollutants,forming ground-level ozone. PM is also releasedinto the air or is formed later within the atmos-phere through chemical reactions.These particles,together with ground-level O3, are the two maincomponents of smog. Smog will remain in anarea until a weather system, such as a heavyrainfall, washes most of the pollutants out of thelocal atmosphere. High wind speeds can increasedispersion of pollutants, thereby lowering theconcentration levels of the pollutants in an area.

    Smog pollutants can be generated by either naturally occurring processes or by humanactivities. Natural sources of pollutants includeforest fires and volcanoes, which add part