Air Quality Issues in Alberta & NWT

Alberta and the Northwest Territories have big, beautiful open skies. Many are surprised to learn we do have air quality issues.

A Costly Diagnosis: Subsidizing coal power with Albertan's health.


This report is the first of its kind to assess the health and environmental costs of coal-fired electricity in Alberta. It was co-authored by the Asthma Society of Canada, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT, and the Pembina Institute. Read the report here:

To learn more about the Alberta coal phase-out, please visit http://albertacoalphaseout.ca/ or https://www.facebook.com/albertacoalphaseout.

Air quality issues around the oil sands

Government officials, environmentalists, and citizens around the world have increasingly become aware of air quality concerns around the oil sands in Alberta. The Wood Buffalo Environmental Association monitors the air in the oil sands region 24 hours a day for air quality pollutants.  In 2007, air quality was rated “good” 98% of the time according to the Air Quality Index.   

The main concern related to oil sands development with regards to air quality is from hydrogen sulphide gas: H2S(g).  H2S(g) has a very distinctive odour, of rotten eggs, however the gas can quickly paralyze one’s sense of smell.  If you do encounter the smell, this should serve as a warning to evacuate the area immediately and seek respiratory protection if possible.

H2S(g) is often found at high levels in the Fort McMurray area and other oil sands sites.  Exposure to H2S(g) leads to similar health effects suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning such as: dizziness, headaches, difficulty breathing and eventually death.  

H2S(g) is worrying as there has been an increasing trend in H2S(g) levels since 2000.  In 2008, there were 350 separate occasions where hourly measurements (exceedences) were higher than the industry standard (0.01 ppm) in H2S(g) monitoring stations.   In 2009, between the months of January to July, the number had jumped to 438 exceedances.   As long as the world demands oil for its energy needs, the air quality in and around the areas surrounding the oil sands will continue to be negatively affected, thus impacting our overall health.

Page Last Updated: 11/12/2015