The air quality alert programme in Toronto (Canada) had limited effects in protecting the public’s health from air pollution between 2003 and 2012, according to an observational study of 2.6 million people published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.
Toronto has low to moderate air pollution levels, but spikes in air pollution remain common. On these days, authorities issue air quality alerts to warn the public and encourage people to reduce physical activities outdoors. The programme is based on information campaigns (web notifications and media coverage), rather than enforceable public actions. This type of programme is used elsewhere where air pollution levels are also similar.
The study authors suggest that air pollution problems may be best addressed through collective and enforceable actions. These could include improved urban and transportation planning, and improved fuel standards and emission control, rather than advising individuals and leaving to them to protect themselves from the harmful effects of air pollution.