What is smog?
Smog is a hazy mix of pollutants made up of ground-level ozone, fine particulate matter and other pollutants.
Why should I be concerned?
Smog can be deadly, and it affects everyone. A new Ontario Medical Association Report estimated that in 2005, 5,800 Ontarians will die prematurely as a result of smog. The cost to the health care system is expected to be $2.17 million with $1.63 million in lost productivity costs. In Smiths Falls and Lanark and Leeds and Grenville counties, the OMA projects that smog will cause 77 premature deaths, 210 hospital admissions, and 736 emergency visits. In 2004, the Ministry of Environment issued eight smog advisories for Ontario for a total of 20 days. By June 29, 2005 it had already issued seven advisories for a total of 29 days.
Smog in Lanark, Leeds and Grenville?
Smog may appear as a brownish-yellow haze, but it isn’t always visible. Smog often begins in big cities but it can be just as smoggy or worse in rural and suburban areas. Although smog can occur anytime of year, it is most frequent during the hot, humid weather between May and September when heat triggers chemical reactions in our air and southwesterly winds blow pollution in from the U.S. Those same winds blow the pollution generated in Ontario into the eastern U.S.
There is a vicious cycle in summer when people crank up their air conditioners on hot days, which in turn puts more pressure on electricity production. Coal fired generators then contribute more smog producing pollutants. There are many domestic sources of smog year round. Contributors include industrial and vehicle emissions, road dust, agriculture, construction and wood burning, burning fossil fuels for transportation and industry, coal-fired power plants and non-iron ore smelters.
What kinds of health problems?
Smog irritates the eyes, nose and throat, and can cause wheezing, coughing and breathing difficulties. Smog may adversely affect the lungs and heart, and has been linked to increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations. It can aggravate pre-existing heart and lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis and in some cases can result in premature death.
Studies show that ground-level ozone continues to cause lung damage even when the acute symptoms disappear, and that repeated exposure may result in permanent damage to the lining of the lungs. Studies also suggest that long-term regular exposure to particulate matter can increase the risk of early death and perhaps lung cancer. (Ontario Ministry of Health.)
People who are most sensitive to smog include those with lung diseases and heart conditions, seniors, children, pregnant women, people with asthma, smokers, and people who work or exercise outdoors.
How can I reduce smog?
- Minimize Your Energy Use. Ontario’s electricity comes from a mix of sources including gas and coal-fired generators that emit pollutants. Turn off lights, TVs and computers when not in use. Use clothes washers and dishwashers only when full. Hang dry clothes instead of using a dryer.
- Turn Down the Air Conditioner. Setting your air conditioner at 24 degrees instead of 21 degrees uses 15% less energy. Use a fan instead, or to circulate the cooled air.
- Reduce Car Use. Combine trips and carpool. Walk, cycle or drive with a neighbour if possible.
- Drive Cleaner. Keep your vehicle properly tuned and maintained and your tires properly inflated. Drive at speed limits rather than above. These actions improve fuel efficiency and knock a few cents off the cost of gas at the pumps.
- Be Idle Free. Do not idle your vehicle at lock crossings, railways crossings, drive-thrus, convenience stores, or when picking up passengers.
- Use Air Friendly Products. Avoid using aerosol spray and cleaners, oil based paints, pesticides and other chemicals that contribute to poor air quality indoors and outdoors.
What do I do if there is a smog advisory?
Take special precautions on days when a smog advisory has been issued:
- Avoid the use of small, two-stroke, gas or diesel-powered engines such as lawn mowers, chainsaws and leaf blowers.
- Avoid using barbeques. Eat cold foods instead, you’ll feel better too.
- Avoid wood burning activities. Never burn garbage.
- Avoid using oil- based paints and solvents.
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activities, or do them early in the day and take frequent rest breaks.
- Refuel your car after sundown. The fumes released as you fill up will not mix with as much heat and sun to create more smog.
- Stay away from heavy traffic areas when walking or cycling.
- Remain indoors in the later afternoon and early evening when smog is worst.
To receive e-mail notification of smog advisories, go to the Ministry of Environment website and choose the Smiths Falls – Lanark – Sharbot Lake forecast region.
How is REAL making a REAL difference about smog?
REAL has organized a pilot Idle-Fee Campaign to educate area residents of the hazards of vehicle idling. Volunteers will be talking to motorists who are idling their vehicles at lock crossings in Smiths Falls and Merrickville on weekends during the summer. Drivers will be encouraged to reduce their vehicle idling wherever they may be: drive-thrus, railway crossings, at convenience stores, road construction stops and while waiting for family or friends year round.