The escalating wildfires in the western provinces of Canada have triggered a severe health crisis, not only within Canada but extending into the United States as well. As of 12 June, 2023, more than 400 wildfires were reported to be burning across Canada, with approximately half of these fires being out of control. The intense smoke from these wildfires has been carried southwards by wind, leading to poor air quality alerts being issued throughout the United States and Canada.

Impacted areas of USA


Impacted areas of Canada


Impact of Air pollution on health:


People at risk:

  • Age group: Children particularly under 5 years and old age groups
  • Pregnant women
  • Predisposed health conditions
  • Low socio-economic conditions
  • Outdoor working groups

Air Quality Index

AQI RangeCategoryHealth Implications
0 – 50GoodAir quality is satisfactory, and air pollution poses little to no risk.
51 – 100ModerateAir quality is acceptable, but some pollutants may slightly affect individuals who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
101 – 150Unhealthy for Sensitive groupsMembers of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general population may experience some discomfort
151 – 200UnhealthyEveryone may begin to experience health effects. Members of sensitive groups are more likely to be affected severely.
201 – 300Very UnhealthyHealth warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.
301+HazardousHealth alert: everyone may experience more significant health effects. The entire population is at risk of emergency conditions.

(Source: https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/air-quality-index)

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Current Air quality regulations


  • Clean Air Act (CAA): The Clean Air Act is a federal law in the United States that regulates air pollution. It sets national standards for ambient air quality, establishes emissions limits for major pollution sources, and requires states to develop plans to achieve and maintain air quality standards.
  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS): The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets NAAQS to protect public health and the environment. NAAQS establish limits for six common air pollutants: particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), lead (Pb), and carbon monoxide (CO). These standards are reviewed periodically and revised as needed.
  • Regional Haze Rule: This rule addresses visibility impairment in national parks and wilderness areas caused by air pollution. It requires states to develop plans to reduce emissions of pollutants that contribute to regional haze.
  • New Source Review (NSR) Program: NSR is a permitting program that applies to new or modified major stationary sources of air pollution. It requires these sources to undergo a review and meet certain emission reduction requirements before construction or modification.


  • Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS): CAAQS are national standards set by Environment and Climate Change Canada to protect human health and the environment. They establish limits for several pollutants, including particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).
  • Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA): CEPA is the main federal law governing pollution and environmental protection in Canada. It provides a framework for setting and enforcing air quality standards and regulations.
  • Provincial and Territorial Regulations: In Canada, air quality management is primarily the responsibility of provincial and territorial governments. Each province and territory has its own regulations and standards for air pollution control, emissions monitoring, and permitting processes.
  • Industrial Emission Requirements: Canada has specific regulations for industrial sectors, such as the Multi-Sector Air Pollutants Regulations (MSAPR), which set emissions limits for various industries, including electricity generation, petroleum refining, and pulp and paper manufacturing.

Recommendations for workplace

  • Monitor Air Quality: Stay informed about the air quality in your area by regularly checking real-time air quality indices and alerts provided by local environmental agencies or reputable sources. This will help you determine the severity of pollution and take appropriate actions.
  • Establish Air Quality Protocols: Develop and implement air quality protocols that outline specific actions to be taken based on different levels of air pollution. These protocols should include guidelines for adjusting operations, notifying employees, and implementing preventive measures.
  • Provide Indoor Air Quality Measures: Improve indoor air quality by ensuring proper ventilation systems are in place, regularly maintaining air filters, and considering air purifiers with HEPA filters to reduce indoor pollutant levels.
  • Implement Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting or flexible hours, to reduce employee exposure to outdoor air pollution during periods of poor air quality.
  • Educate and Train Employees: Conduct training sessions to educate employees about the health risks associated with air pollution and provide guidance on preventive measures they can take, both at work and in their personal lives.
  • Encourage Sustainable Commuting: Promote sustainable commuting options among employees, such as carpooling, using public transportation, or cycling, to reduce the number of vehicles on the road and lower emissions.
  • Minimize Emissions: Identify and implement measures to reduce emissions from your operations, such as using energy-efficient equipment, optimizing production processes, and exploring alternative energy sources.
  • Engage in Environmental Partnerships: Collaborate with local environmental organizations or initiatives to support air quality improvement projects and contribute to the community’s efforts to combat pollution.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Develop an emergency response plan that outlines procedures to be followed during severe air pollution events, including evacuation plans, employee safety guidelines, and communication protocols.
  • Advocate for Air Quality Improvement: Participate in industry associations and advocate for stricter air quality standards and regulations. Support initiatives that promote clean energy, emission reductions, and sustainable practices at local, regional, and national levels.




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