Citizens Environment Alliance
May 21, 2003

Ministry of the Environment's Weak Smog Alert System Misleads The Public

Windsor, Ontario - The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) continues to promote its weak smog advisory system. The MOE will only issue smog advisories when elevated smog levels persist for at least six hours. Currently, the air monitoring network measures six common air pollutants and releases average hourly data to the public several times per day. The Ontario standard for ground level ozone (smog) is 80 parts per billion measured over a one-hour period.

"A smog advisory system should warn the public as soon as possible, not after people have been exposed to several hours of potentially life threatening pollution," stated Derek Coronado, Research and Policy Coordinator of the Citizens Environment Alliance.

Smog advisories in Ontario are issued when there is a high probability of widespread elevated smog levels occurring within the next twenty-four hours and when widespread and elevated smog levels develop unexpectedly. Smog advisories will not be issued unless it is expected that elevated levels of smog (50 or higher as measured on the Air Quality Index) persist for at least six hours.

Municipalities that have smog action plans depend upon MOE advisories to trigger the municipal plan. Municipalities will have to choose to continue to depend upon a weak MOE advisory program or use their own resources to track monitoring information and react accordingly.

"Issuing fewer smog advisories may allow some people to claim progress, but actual poor air quality may be as bad or worse than previous years. Is it a coincidence that a weakened smog advisory system has been implemented just before the worst season of the year for smog and prior to a provincial election?" asked Coronado.

Several cities have already experienced poor air quality days, as defined by the MOE, without an advisory. For example, on March 17 Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie experienced several hours of poor air quality without a smog advisory issued by the MOE. Hamilton experienced a similar situation on April 28.

For more information contact:

Derek Coronado
Research and Policy Coordinator,
Citizens Environment Alliance
(519) 973-1116