Air Quality Scale in Quebec and Montreal

Posted on July 16th 2015
Share: aqicn.org/faq/2015-07-16/air-quality-scale-in-quebec-and-montreal

Flag of Quebec.svg
The Fleurdelisé, flag of Quebec.
(attribution: wikipedia)

The Air Quality data for Montreal and Quebec has been available for a while, but we recently got few questions about the AQI scale used in this part of Canada. One of them is from Marie A., who asked:

I would like to know why the Air Quality Index on your web site is different from the AQI on the Montreal's website? Do you recalculate anything to meet the US EPA AQI standards? If so, how? With what data?

For example, date July 14th 2:00pm, most of the indexes on your website range from 53 to 65 (one index is 37) and it is supposed to be realtime AQI. On the website of Montreal city, date July 14th 2:00pm, most of indexes range from 16 to 37 and it is realtime AQI as well.

So, can you explain me the difference and what the standards details you are using?
This is indeed a very good question. and we will explain in this article the different scales in use, how the scales compare to each other, and how the convertion can be done.


oOo

As we explained in one of our previous articles, all the AQI figures published on the World Air Quality Index project are currently [1] using the US EPA standard. Neither Montreal nor Quebec are expection to this rule, so this confirms that the values displayed on the page city/montreal are using the US EPA standard.

This is the reason for the difference between the World Air Quality Index project readings and the Montreal city website ( montreal.qc.ca): The Montreal city EPA (Environment Protection Agency) is using its own proper AQI scale, which is clearly described on the same website. To make it slighly more "complex", Quebec is actually using another AQI scale (specified at this link) compared to Montreal (tabarnac!). And of course, Canada is using yet another scale, called AQHI for Air Quality Health Index - but that's something we already wrote about in another article.

The summary of Montreal and Quebec AQI breakpoints are listed in this table:

Pollutant Quebec Montreal
Averaging Period Reference Value Averaging Period Reference Value
Fine Particles (PM2.5) 3 hours 35µg/m3 3 hours 35µg/m3
Ozone (O3) 1 hour 82 ppb 1 hour 160 µg/m3
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) 1 hour 213 ppb 1 hour 400 µg/m3
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) 4 minutes mobile 213 ppb 10 minutes mobile 500 µg/m3
Carbon monoxide (CO) 1 hour 30 ppm 1 hour 35 µg/m3


oOo

In order to convert the values to the US EPA standard, the raw concentrations expressed in milligrams or ppb/ppm (particle count per billion/million) are required. Unfortunately, neither Montreal nor Quebec county is providing those raw concentrations. Instead they are only providing the Air Quality readings already converted to their own respective AQI scales. But this actually not a problem, since the re-convertion to concentration can be done using this simple linear formula:
Raw concentration (pollutant) = Reference value (pollutant) * AQI }(pollutant) / 50
For instance, if an PM2.5 AQI value of 18 is publised on Montreal city website, then the raw concentration in milligrams is 18*35/50 = 12.6 mg/m3. Note that for Ozone, CO, SO2 and NO2 the unit is different for Quebec and Montreal (ppb for Quebec - US standard, and mg for Montreal EU standard), but that is just an additional convertion (partly explained in this article).

Note that the PM2.5 AQI is based on 3-hours average, while on the World Air Quality Index project, the hourly PM2.5 Instant Cast AQI reporting is used. Since it is not possible to deduct the hourly data from the 3 hours average, this actually means that the PM2.5 AQI reported on the World Air Quality Index project for Montreal and Quebec is not exactly an "Instant Cast" reporting.

oOo

So, last, here is the visual comparison of 3 AQI scales (US EPA, Quebec and Montreal) for PM2.5 and Ozone (note that for Ozone, the ppm unit is used - so the convertion from mg to ppm is done for Montreal).

One interresting point to notice is that both Quebec and Montreal are using the AQI value of 25 as the breakpoint between Good (green) and Aceptable (yellow), while for the US EPA, this breakpoint is set at 50. So, all in all, when comparing apple-to-apple with the right convertion and breakpoints in mind, the reported AQI range is very similar between the US EPA standard and Quebec / Montreal standards.



[1] We are now working on an option which will allow users to select any AQI scale they want.



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Note: This article is part of a series on Worlwide Air Quality scales.

For more information about specific countries or continent, please refer to thoses articles:
Thailand and Malysia
-
India
-
China
-
Hong Kong / Canada (Air Quality Health Index)
-
South America
-
Australia
-
Quebec and Montreal
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Singapore
-
Poland
-
Indonesia
.
For information about the 24 hours averaging used or Ozone and Particulate Matter (PM2.5), please refer to those two articles: Ground Ozone Index - PM2.5 Instant Cast


Click here to see all the FAQ entries
  • Nitrogen Dioxyde (NO2) in our atmosphere
  • Ozone AQI Scale update
  • Kriging Interpolation




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    About the Air Quality and Pollution Measurement:

    About the Air Quality Levels

    AQIAir Pollution LevelHealth ImplicationsCautionary Statement (for PM2.5)
    0 - 50GoodAir quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no riskNone
    51 -100ModerateAir quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
    101-150Unhealthy for Sensitive GroupsMembers of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected.Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
    151-200UnhealthyEveryone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effectsActive children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion
    201-300Very UnhealthyHealth warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion.
    300+HazardousHealth alert: everyone may experience more serious health effectsEveryone should avoid all outdoor exertion

    To know more about Air Quality and Pollution, check the wikipedia Air Quality topic or the airnow guide to Air Quality and Your Health.

    For very useful health advices of Beijing Doctor Richard Saint Cyr MD, check www.myhealthbeijing.com blog.


    Usage Notice: All the Air Quality data are unvalidated at the time of publication, and due to quality assurance these data may be amended, without notice, at any time. The World Air Quality Index project has exercised all reasonable skill and care in compiling the contents of this information and under no circumstances will the World Air Quality Index project team or its agents be liable in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss, injury or damage arising directly or indirectly from the supply of this data.



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