Environmental Health:

Outdoor Air Quality

Did You Know?

The Air Quality Health Index or “AQHI” is a scale designed to help you understand what the air quality around you means to your health.

Air pollution is “the biggest environmental risk to human health” as cited by the World Health Organization.

There are many sources of outdoor air pollution that, even at low levels, impact human health. Common sources include:

  • Transportation (fossil fuel)
  • Metal refining
  • Cement
  • Burning wood or fossil fuels
  • Wildfires

It’s worth celebrating that New Brunswickers generally enjoy relatively clean air.

And we are working hard to protect that! NB Lung was a key advocate in New Brunswick’s ban of many cosmetic pesticides, and on policy changes to encourage zero emission vehicles.

From itchy, watery eyes and throat to difficulty breathing and respiratory symptom exacerbation, air pollution affects people differently.

The AQHI Alert helps me plan my day… they don’t put out an air quality advisory notice until the index reaches a 7, but I physically notice more of my asthma symptoms when it’s as low as 3.

- Melanie Langille, President & CEO

Did You Know?

Over 15,000 Canadians die prematurely each year due to air pollution.

People at highest risk can include:

  • those living with respiratory illnesses (eg. asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD))
  • those living with cardiovascular conditions (eg. angina, a previous heart attack, congestive heart failure or heart rhythm problems)
  • those living with diabtetes are also more likely to have cardiovascular disease.
  • Young children
  • The elderly
  • Those participating in sport or strenous work outdoors

For people living with lung disease, poor air quality can lead to:

  • Hospitalizations
  • Asthma symptom days
  • Cardiac ER visits
  • Acute bronchitis episodes
  • Acute respiratory symptom days
  • Restricted activity days

For young children, and unborn babies, air pollution can result in:

  • Premature birth and/or low birth weight
  • Disturbed development of the immune system
  • Impaired organ development
  • Decreased lung function
  • Increased risk of developing asthma

Protect Your Lungs: AQHI Scale

The Air Quality Health Index or “AQHI” is a scale designed to help you understand what the air quality around you means to your health.

It’s a health protection tool designed to help you make decisions to protect your health by limiting short-term exposure to air pollution and adjusting your activity levels during increased levels of air pollution – and it’s particularly important for those whose health is at most risk from air pollution.

The AQHI is calculated based on the relative risks of a combination of common air pollutants that is known to harm human health.  These pollutants are: ozone (O3) at ground level, particulate matter (PM2.5/PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Then the AQHI is measured on a scale ranging from 1-10+. The AQHI index values are grouped into health risk categories as shown above. These categories help you to easily and quickly identify your level of risk.

Check your local AQHI here.


Canada’s WeatherCAN app lets you set custom AQHI alerts for your area on your phone, learn more about the app here :

Page Last Updated: 28/02/2023