Environmental Health

Air Quality Health Index

The Canadian Air Quality Health Index is a scale designed to help you understand what the quality of the air around you means to your health. It is a tool developed by health and environmental professionals to communicate the health risks posed by air pollution. The Air Quality Health Index is a scale that lists a number from 1 to 10+ to indicate the level of health risk associated with air quality.

PurpleAir® monitors are being installed in communities throughout NWT. The sensors provide real-time air quality information. Use the map below to find your community's most up-to-date Air Quality Health Index.

How to read the information

Health Risk Air Quality Health Index Health Messages
At Risk Population* General Population
Low 1-3 Enjoy your usual outdoor activities. Ideal air quality for outdoor activities.
Moderate 4-6 Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms. No need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
High 7-10 Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also take it easy. Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
Very High Above 10 Avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion. Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.

* People with heart or breathing problems are at greater risk. Follow your doctor's usual advice about exercising and managing your condition.

Who is at risk population?

  • seniors
  • pregnant people
  • infants and young children
  • people who work outdoors
  • people involved in strenuous outdoor exercise
  • people with an existing illness or chronic health conditions, such as:
    • cancer
    • diabetes
    • mental illness
    • lung or heart conditions

Are you sensitive to air pollution?

Exposure to air pollutants can cause a range of symptoms. People with lung or heart disease may experience increased frequency and/or severity of symptoms, and increased medication requirements.

People who are otherwise healthy may have the following symptoms:

  • irritated eyes
  • increased mucus production in the nose or throat
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing especially during exercise

Some people may be unaware that they have lung or heart disease. Consult your doctor if you have any: chest pain or tightness, sweating, difficulty breathing without exertion, consistent cough or shortness of breath, fluttering in the chest or feeling light headed.

People with existing illnesses may have the following specific symptoms:

  • People with asthma or COPD may notice an increase in cough, wheezing, shortness of breath or phlegm.
  • People with heart failure may experience increased shortness of breath or swelling in the ankles and feet.
  • People with heart rhythm problems may notice increased fluttering in the chest and feeling light-headed.
  • People with angina or coronary artery disease may have an increase in chest or arm pain.

Estimating your own sensitivity

Note: You should always consult your doctor concerning medical issues. People who have existing respiratory or cardiovascular illness should follow their doctor's usual advice on the management of their condition. Use of the following guide is an additional tool that can be used to protect your health.

Use your own experience and symptoms as a guide.

How do you usually feel when there is an increase in air pollution? If you cannot answer this question, visit this Web site regularly and take note of how you feel on days with different levels of air pollution.

  1. Take into account your age, your health status, and your level of outdoor activity. If you are in the "At Risk" group, your sensitivity to air pollution is likely to be greater.
    • Young, active children
    • Elderly individuals
    • People having existing respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which may include chronic bronchitis and emphysema, or people with certain heart arrhythmias (rhythm problems or irregular heartbeat), congestive heart failure, angina or previous heart attack
    • People undertaking strenuous exertion outdoors, for example during sports or strenuous work.
  2. By considering these factors you can assess whether you are:
    • Very sensitive: Severe and frequent symptoms, possibly even after low exposures to pollution
    • Moderately sensitive: Between very and mildly sensitive
    • Mildly sensitive: Mild and infrequent symptoms, only after high exposures to pollution.