Q. What is outdoor air quality like in the Halifax Regional Municipality?
A. Locally, we produce air emissions from sources such as burning fossil fuels for heating our homes, generating electricity, driving our vehicles, and the evaporation of solvents like paint.
In addition, Eastern Canada is sometimes referred to as “the tailpipe of North America” because transboundary air pollutants are blown here from other regions of Canada and the eastern United States.
Depending on the release from those sources and other factors such as time, place, and weather, air quality in Halifax can range from poor to fine. Notable air quality problems such as smog and acid rain do occur in HRM, as well other parts of Nova Scotia.
Mixtures of air pollutants, sunlight and heat create smog, which has been known to negatively impact respiratory and cardiac health conditions.
Among the pollutants that produce smog, and data from the provincial environment department shows nitrogen oxide peaks coincide with commuter traffic in Halifax between 8 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 pm.
Much of Nova Scotia's land and lakes have lower acid buffering and neutralizing abilities, so acid rain hits here harder, affecting buildings, ecosystems, and animal species.
Non-profit and government efforts have been made through research, policy and legislation to reduce some of the local and transboundary air pollutants. While there have been some notable decreases with certain pollutants, more reduction of air quality emissions is needed for better health -- both for humans and the ecosystem.
Steps can be taken at an individual and a societal level to help reduce air pollution. This can mean driving less and avoiding idling when you do, reducing energy use, switching to cleaner energy sources, purchasing low-emitting products such as paint, furniture, and cleaners, and becoming involved in air quality issues in your community.
To learn more about air quality issues in general and in our region check out the federal government’s Clean Air Online and the air quality section of the Nova Scotia Department of Environment page.
If you are concerned about the effects of air quality visit the Air Quality Index.