Policy Priority: Environmental Sustainability and Clean Air


The health of our planet is important to us all. Climate change will affect everyone in Canada, but those already experiencing health inequities will be disproportionately impacted. Air quality issues disproportionately affect people with asthma and respiratory allergies. Asthma Canada is committed to providing leadership, advocacy, public awareness, information and innovation in the areas of asthma, allergies, respiratory health, and the environment.

Read on to learn about our efforts to advance this policy priority.

Elimination of Coal-Fired Power Generation

Elimination of Coal-Fired Power Generation

Alongside coalition partners in both Ontario and Alberta, Asthma Canada was actively involved in advocacy campaigns to push for the elimination of coal-fired electricity generation. These successful campaigns resulted in the closure of the last coal fired power plant in Ontario in 2014 and the announcement of a phase-out of coal power in Alberta by 2030.

Asthma Canada is actively working on advocacy campaigns to close the remaining coal plants in Canada located in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia while also asking the Federal government to continue measures which improve air quality through investment in clean, sustainable energy sources and green technologies.

Further reading:

Fossil Fuel Ads Make Us Sick Campaign

Fossil Fuel Ads Make Us Sick is a public health campaign led by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and a broad coalition of health, environmental, parent, and cultural groups, including Asthma Canada.

Air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels causes between 15,000 and 34,000 premature deaths in Canada each year and 1 in 5 deaths globally. A gas stove creates the same asthma risk for kids as living with a smoker. Yet, just like the tobacco industry, fossil fuel companies are lying about the known dangers of their products. 

As part of the coalition, Asthma Canada is demanding that the Government of Canada enact a ban on all fossil fuel advertisements.

Read the open letter to government (June 2022)

Read the press release (June 8, 2022)

Calling for an Effective Climate Change Plan

For people living with asthma, the air we breathe affects the way we live. When you can’t breathe because of air pollution, you can’t work, go to school or live your life freely. Climate change is also a health issue. 

Alongside more than 60 organizations from various sectors, Asthma Canada called for a comprehensive and effective climate change plan for Ontario, signing an open letter to the Ontario government. The Clean Economy Alliance’s letter signatories included nurses, steelworkers, engineers, environmental advocates, architects, teachers, solar panel installers, financiers, investors, doctors, and small business owners.

The Make It Better Project

The Make It Better project was developed by the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) in partnership with leading health and environmental organizations working to protect children’s health. An ally to the project, Asthma Canada regularly shares education and resources from the project with our community.

Since 2018, Asthma Canada has been involved in the development and roll-out of a communications campaign connecting climate change with adverse health outcomes, specifically, asthma, Lyme disease and heat-related illnesses.

Children’s health is being directly and seriously impacted by climate change and inequities put them at greater risk. Over 13% of Canadian children and youth are living with asthma. It is one of the leading causes of childhood hospital admissions in Canada. Children from the lowest income neighborhoods in Canada are hospitalized for asthma 1.5 times more than those from the highest income neighborhoods.

For Life and Breath Conference: Asthma, Allergy & the Environment

In 2014, Asthma Canada hosted a full-day conference to discuss and develop strategies on the current state of asthma, allergies and the environment. The Summit consisted of speeches, presentations and four panel discussions that featured Canada’s leading medical experts, researchers, and advocates.

Clearing the Air: Asthma and Allergies in a Time of Climate Change

Clearing the Air: Asthma and Allergies in a Time of Climate Change was the second annual (then) Asthma Society of Canada conference. It began with an opening reception and awards dinner followed by a full-day Summit on World Asthma Day in 2015.

The conference brought together leaders from government, industry, academia and the not-for profit sectors as well as patients and healthcare practitioners to examine the effects of climate change on asthma and respiratory allergies.

The evening reception & awards dinner featured keynote speakers Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith, authors of the best-selling books Toxin, Toxout and Slow Death by Rubber Duck. Three Leadership Awards were then presented to innovators who made significant contributions in the world of asthma, allergies, and air quality:

View photos from the day below.

Air Quality Health Index & Asthma Education Projects

Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) and Asthma

The Air Quality Health Index is a scale designed to help you understand what the air quality around you means to your health.  It is a health protection tool that is designed to help you make decisions to protect your health by limiting short-term exposure to air pollution and adjusting your activity levels during increased levels of air pollution.  It also provides advice on how you can improve the quality of air you breathe.  The Index pays particular attention to people who are sensitive to air pollution and provides them with advice on how to protect their health during air quality levels, using a scale of 1-10, associated with low, moderate, high and very high health risks. 

In 2013, Asthma Canada continued a strong partnership with Environment Canada to promote awareness of the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) and its importance for people with asthma living in Canada. We provided a package with newly designed educational materials about the AQHI and asthma to Canadian organizations, free of charge.

View the resources:

Air Quality Health Index and Asthma EN 

Air Quality Health Index and Asthma FR

The project culminated in the creation of a mobile app and AsthmaToday Desktop Widget which incorporated updated AQHI information, weather information from Environment Canada and new resources from Asthma Canada. The widget was then upgraded and redeveloped as a mobile app for iOS and Android devices to better expand its reach for the Canadian population. New additions to the AsthmaToday app included the expansion of services to include AQHI, temperature, humidity and UV rating, as well as an asthma symptom tracking log with an attached Asthma Action Plan. The app utilises GPS technology for geographically specific readings. 

Toronto Public Health AQHI

In 2013, the ASC completed three AQHI outreach projects with Toronto Public Health. These projects conducted outreach to both the Tamil and Chinese communities in Toronto. The third project focused on outreach to runners in organized race events in Toronto.