Ecology Ottawa's Breathe Easy Campaign

Breathing clean air is vital to our physical health, but is a growing challenge with the rise of pollutants in our atmosphere. Although we rarely see it, air pollution is one of the most significant environmental challenges impacting public health and one of the most avoidable causes of death and disease globally. Air pollution leads to disease, increased hospitalizations, and even premature death from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections.   

People most at risk for health effects include seniors because age weakens the heart, lungs, and immune system and increases the likelihood of health problems such as heart and lung disease. Children are also more vulnerable to air pollution: they have less-developed respiratory and defense systems. Because of their size, they inhale more air per kilogram of body weight than adults. This means that they are particularly vulnerable whilst travelling in and moving around diesel school buses.   

In light of these worrying statistics, and in view of the fact that in Ottawa there is only a single air quality monitoring station downtown, over 2020, 2021, and 2023 Ecology Ottawa ran a community-led air quality monitoring program across the city with over 100 volunteers involved each year. Thank you to our volunteers, staff, and partners who made this campaign possible!

The World Health Organization estimates that 4.2 million deaths occur globally every year occur as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution, with the Government of Canada estimating that 15,300 premature deaths per year in Canada are linked to air pollution from fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Of these, Health Canada estimates that air pollution contributes to 6,600 premature deaths in Ontario alone; equivalent to 42 premature deaths per 100,000 Canadians. Health Canada has released numerous reports on the negative health impacts of air pollution. For further information, here you can access their 2021 report Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Canada.


In 2021 we held two webinars looking at the results of our air quality data collection campaign in collaboration with Sierra Club Canada.

The first of these featured prominent researcher and University of Toronto professor Dr. Greg Evans, whose research focuses on air pollution and understanding its impacts on human health and the environment.

The second featured Dr. Errol Thomson, a Research Scientist with Health Canada and Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa, who provided an overview of ongoing research efforts into the health effects of air pollution, including the widespread nature of effects, how pollutant composition (and hence source) matters, and factors that contribute to vulnerability.

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This project is made possible with the support of the Trottier Foundation

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