Montreal has been rated the second worst city in Canada in regard to air quality according to a September 26 World Health Organization (WHO) assessment. Montreal is ranked only behind the industrial town of Sarnia, Ontario.
The WHO compiled data from 1,100 cities in 91 countries worldwide to create an assessment of urban outdoor air pollution. The goal of the assessment is to raise awareness and facilitate solutions to limit the impacts of outdoor air pollution on public health.
Nada Osserian, the communications officer of the Health and Environment Department at the WHO, explained to The Daily that the WHO estimates more than 2 million people die annually from breathing in tiny particles present in indoor and outdoor air pollution.
Air quality is determined by the presence of one air pollutant, known as PM2.5, which measures less than 2.5 microns. Cities were rated based on the concentration of this pollutant per cubic meter of air. Air quality is represented by annual mean concentration of this fine particulate matter.
According to the WHO’s assessment, Montreal contains an average of 11.3 micrograms per cubic meter of air of pollutant. This is slightly lower than the 12.7 micrograms in Sarnia.
Toronto and Vancouver were rated as having higher air quality than Montreal, containing 7.9 micrograms and 4.9 micrograms of PM2.5 respectively.
According to 2006 data from the Montreal Health and Social Services Agency, the type of pollutants assessed in the recent WHO report are shown to lead to more than 4,000 deaths each year in Canada.
These pollutants have contributed to approximately 1,500 deaths each year in Montreal.
The City of Montreal’s environmental municipal branch, Direction de l’environnement et du développement durable, focuses on environmental services and sustainable development. The purpose of this branch is to improve and monitor the quality of the physical environment in Montreal and the quality of life for citizens.
As of 2010, there were 14 monitoring stations located throughout the island of Montreal, creating a network able to assess air quality.
Data collected in these monitoring networks in 2010 showed that there were 65 days that year with air quality ratings of “poor,” three less days of poor air quality than in 2009. Fine particles alone accounted for 63 of the poor air quality days.
Despite the data on air quality in Montreal, Canada ranks as the third-best country in WHO’s worldwide air quality ratings.
The level of air pollution in Montreal is lower than other major metropolitan cities. Paris rated at 22.7 micrograms, and according to the WHO, the rate of PM2.5 in Beijing reached 121 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
In a 2010 Highlights report, Chantal I. Gagnon, the director of Direction de l’environnement et du développement durable, states that “air and water quality continued to be closely monitored.”
The government of Quebec recently granted $1.9 million to its Climat municipalités program. This grant will be put towards “mak[ing] Montreal a sustainable metropolis,” according to Gagnon.