About this site
by Ron Hartling
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Genesis of this page
I had long assumed that, Kingston being small, non-industrial and somewhat environmentally minded, our air quality must be comparatively healthy. The truly hazardous June 2023 spike in Kingston “fine particulate matter” dispelled that illusion, motivating me to research the worrisome reality. I had initially assumed that those high readings mostly reflected smoky clouds crossing our area from the out-of-control wildfires from Quebec and sometimes as far away as Alberta. After rainfall reduced those clouds to the point that the national smoke model map sometimes showed our area to be clear of such clouds for days at a time, it puzzled me that our airborne fine particulate matter (PM2.5) readings often remained unhealthily high.
Seeking a better understanding, I bulk-downloaded Kingston hourly PM2.5 readings from 2020 on into an Excel file to identify meaningful patterns. Contrary to popular belief, that data clearly pointed to the vast majority of the particulates which we breathe coming from far outside of our area. If much of the particulate pollutants were emitted locally, there would be significant differences between weekends and weekdays, as well as between daylight and nighttime hours. In reality, there was relatively little change. There was some seasonality, with modestly higher average particulate levels during the North American winter heating season (most homes still being fossil-fuel heated), but not nearly as much as one would expect. All of which suggests that, apart from spikes during the May through September wildfire season, the majority of particulates in our air must be generated by large industrial emitters which, by and large, operate 24/7.
This is not just a Kingston problem but appears to be Ontario-wide. For comparison purposes, I downloaded hourly readings for all of 2022 from Barrie, Belleville, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor, dropping each set into the same spreadsheet to compute annual averages. It turned out that, of those centres, Kingston and Belleville had the lowest annual averages. What the data suggests is that the bulk of our province’s airborne particulates come from US industrial emitters. The Ontario variations may be attributed to the degree and nature of the industrialization in the overall region surrounding each centre. Then, seasonal wildfire smoke is layered on top of those other two components, resulting in an average annual exposure which consistently exceeds the WHO-recommended healthy limit, even outside wildfire season.
I then decided that I should research the health impacts of the level of airborne pollution to which Kingstonians and other Ontarian are being subjected and was shocked by the gravity of those impacts. That was more than enough to motivate further research on how I could best protect my household. Since then, I have achieved my goal of keeping my exposure below the WHO-recommendation of keeping my average annual exposure under 5 µg/m3. What I consider criminally irresponsible on the part of all three levels of government is their failing to inform the citizens and residents for whom they are responsible of the magnitude of those mostly avoidable health risks. Many lives are being avoidably blighted and lost as a result of that negligence and many more will follow unless and until we can collectively raise that general awareness. This site is intended to serve as a small step in that direction. You can help by sharing this link with others in your circle and inviting them to do the same.
While I have no health sciences credentials, the health impacts page was reviewed by a prominent internal-medicine specialist who is in full agreement with what is written.