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Blowin' in the Wind, Issue #098 Alberta - Dirtiest place in the World? - Oct 1, 2012
September 27, 2012
Hello ,

Alberta - Dirtiest place in the World?

I received this submission from a professional writer - please let me know if:

1) Do you agree with it? 2) Is this the way people you know perceive Alberta and its oil industry

The submitted text starts here:

People who have been living in the province of Alberta for a while may have noticed that the air quality is…not that good, to say the least. They might have noted that the air quality in the province could be a lot better, and they may have even noticed this with greater sensitivity after they returned from vacation to other parts of Canada with better air quality. Today there is proof that the air quality in Alberta is just not as good as it can be.

Soul Searching

According to a 2008 report from Calgary's own The Calgary Herald, the province was hit with a rating of D for the quality of its air! Looking at this grade in terms of a report card, that is basically close to failing. Further, according to the same report, the levels of so-called particulate matter are as bad as another notorious area of Canada, in terms of pollution: the Lower Mainland of British Columbia on the West Coast! In fact, the air quality in Alberta is inching ever closer to the horrid air quality found in larger provinces (by population) such as either Quebec or Ontario.

In practical terms that should worry residents of Alberta, this very poor grade on the report card from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation means that Albertans are actually subject to an increased risk of bad health. You see, there is a morbid association between poor air quality and cardiovascular illness. Consider that this report exposed that almost 70 percent of Canadian deaths due to air pollution are actually cardiovascular-related.

What is particularly noteworthy in this revelatory report is the fact that problems with the quality of air have long been thought to be associated with areas that are more urban and the East Coast of Canada. Both of these are dubious stereotypes because Alberta's problems with the quality of its air clearly show a worsening trend approaching urban areas and East Coast provinces. Alberta, of course, is a more agricultural prairie province with fewer people than BC, Quebec and Ontario so that begs the question, why is the pollution in the air in Alberta so high? That can be answered with one word:


Alberta is a province that is famous for its oil and its oil sands (known at one time as the tar sands), and this is what explains the high degree of particulate matter, basically on the same level as the BC Lower Mainland. Particularly, it is the development of these oilsands that increases the levels of particulate matter in the province, and this makes perfect sense when you consider that this substance can actually travel across wide distances as far away as 800 miles from the source!

This report should be a wakeup call for the government of Alberta to improve the quality of its air and reduce its copious amounts of air pollution. After all, the presence of poor air quality is not just self-contained; it can infect other aspects of the province, such as its water, agriculture and, of course, natural environment. In the case of water quality, just think about acid rain. If enough acidic gases get released into the air, they will mix with water in the air to create acid rain, which then falls into bodies of water to pollute them. Agriculture, which Alberta is also known for, can also be harmfully affected by shabby air quality. Examples of harm to agriculture can include noticeable markings on the foliage, lessened yield and also growth, and even early death of particular plants.

It is also interesting to note that big cities in the province, such as both Calgary and Edmonton, produce the most car pollution of any major city in the country. It is remarkable that people in Calgary and Edmonton love driving their cars so much, especially when bigger cities like Toronto, for example, have decent public transit systems that allow residents there to reduce the use of cars. In this way, big cities in Alberta are actually closer to smaller cities such as Kitchener in Ontario, when it comes to the habits of drivers.

So what can readers take away from this poor air quality rating in the province of Alberta? Residents of Alberta should never leave their homes, of course! However, in terms of workable and useful solutions, there have been suggestions made by health organizations that include a rolling out of the Air Quality Health Index across the country and a greater focus on public transit. Small steps like these are thought to eventually aid in improving the quality of air in provinces like Alberta.

Now please do me a favour. Here are those questions once again:

1) Do you agree with it?

2) Is this the way people you know perceive Alberta and its oil industry

I plan to publish this article (and modify as appropriate). Please let me know what you think by email: Thank you very much.


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