Over 2020 and 2021, over 250 Ecology Ottawa volunteers collected air quality data from over 40 sites across the city. Citizen scientists used portable air quality monitoring devices to measure particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide (which is produced by Ontario’s fleet of 20,000 diesel school buses as well as other vehicles) in the air. The 2021 campaign had an increased equity lens by focusing on the most vulnerable sectors of the population, including children in schools and low-income neighbourhoods. The campaign remains Ottawa’s largest community-led science project, critical in raising awareness of the dangers of air pollution all around us.


An important observation in our report was a significant correlation (almost 40%), between air quality and household income, meaning that populations in lower income neighbourhoods tend to be those subject to elevated levels of contaminant concentrations and therefore elevated levels of environmental health risk. Air quality worsened in line with decreasing income in a more significant way than any other factor. This is a clear demonstration of environmental inequity within the city.

In our analysis, lower income populations tended to be those living in more densely populated areas. So lower income communities have more people living together, correlating with observed increases of environmental health risk. These observations are compounding, meaning that the city is creating disproportionately higher health risks for marginalised populations in the city. 


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