Healthy places Air Quality

Air Quality

Beachville area air quality community update  

May 2018


Enhanced air quality testing and reporting in the Beachville area has been occurred since 2015 in response to community concerns about quarry operations impacting air quality.

A comprehensive air quality assessment was led by Southwestern Public Health (as the former Oxford County Public Health) in partnership with Public Health Ontario, the University of Guelph and in consultation with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

A final report was shared with the community in April 2016 with a commitment to continue to provide updates on air monitoring results and other initiatives aimed at improving air quality.

Regular community updates provide the latest air monitoring data, as well as information on initiatives aimed at improving air quality.

Particulate sampling results - Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)

Analysis of four air quality monitoring locations in the Beachville air shed has been completed for 2016 and 2017. The results show:

  1. A decline in suspended particulate concentrations from historical averages and stable concentrations during the last five years, 2013-2017.
  2. Historical and current results indicate concentrations are generally below Ambient Air Quality Criteria (AAQC).
  3. The average total suspended particulate concentrations were below the ministry’s annual AAQC.
  4. Very low concentration of metals that did not exceed AAQC.

Particulate sampling results - Southwestern Public Health

Throughout 2016 and 2017 Southwestern Public Health monitored particulate matter at six sites across South-West Oxford, Zorra and Ingersoll. Using DustTrak air quality monitors, air samples were taken every five minutes over periods ranging from two weeks to a little over one month. The results show:

  1. PM2.5, PM10 and total particulate were identified at levels safe for human health.
  2. Average PM2.5 levels were well below the health-based 24-hour Canada Ambient Air Quality Standard (CAAQS).
  3. Average PM10 levels were well below the 24-hour Ambient Air Quality Criteria (AAQC).
  4. Four of the six sites identified very brief high levels of PM2.5, PM10 and total particulate, indicating peak events. These brief peaks may occur from time to time due to motor vehicle traffic, lawn mowing or industrial activity. Several of the sites also experienced elevated levels of PM10 and total particulate, but not elevated PM2.5 levels, which indicates dust events. These brief high levels are not a concern for ongoing adverse health effects.

Air quality monitoring by Southwestern Public Health is conducted independently from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. The MOECC’s findings align with the DustTrak monitor data collected by Southwestern Public Health during the same time period.

Changes to monitoring network - Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC)

In the spring of 2018, the MOECC will be making improvements to the air monitoring network in the Beachville area.

The ministry has installed two continuous particulate Beta Attenuation Monitors (BAMs) that measure PM10 on an hourly basis, 365 days per year. For a minimum of six months, the BAMs will operate in tandem with five HiVol monitors that are currently used, to ensure the new devices operate well in the network and demonstrate satisfactory data collection. Once data integrity is confirmed, four of the HiVol monitors will be removed. The fifth HiVol monitor will continue to log TSP and metal data once every 12 days and meteorological data collection will continue.

The continuous data collection abilities of the BAMs will provide the ministry with substantially more data. Hourly measurements, in conjunction with wind data, will offer focused insight into specific air shed activities. The BAMs also require less maintenance and relay their data wirelessly in nearly real-time, significantly reducing delays between data collection and laboratory analysis.

The ministry’s updates to their monitoring network will better serve their data collection needs as they continue to provide analysis of the Beachville area air quality.

Next steps

  1. Updates to MOECC monitoring system – MOECC will be operating two Beta Attenuation Monitors alongside the current five HiVol monitors for the next several months to assess their operation and data quality. These new monitors can provide faster access to significantly more data. MOECC expects to review the implementation of the BAMs and assess data quality by spring 2019.
  2. Inspections & dialogue - MOECC continues regular inspections of the Beachville area industries and working with the companies, where necessary, to improve local air quality. Public Health continues discussions with quarry operators to work towards improvements in air quality.
  3. Southwestern Public Health will continue to respond to complaints and conduct periodic assessment of general air quality in the community.
  4. Residents with air quality concerns are encouraged to take photos and submit to Southwestern Public Health if they experience dust events.


Previous Reports

Beachville area air quality community update - May 2018 (PDF)

Oxford Health Matters report on air quality, health and wood burning - April 2017 (PDF)

Beachville area air quality community update - March 2017 (PDF)

MOECC Beachville memo to Oxford Public Health - Sept. 29, 2016 (PDF)

Beachville Memo to Public Health - March 2017 (PDF)

Beachville mobile air monitoring summary 2016 (Excel spreadsheet) 


Air quality in your community

Public Health maintains partnerships with members of the community, the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and Public Health Ontario in identifying and studying air quality issues in Oxford County. Public Health also provides air quality education to the public, responds to complaints and advocates for healthy public policy.

The air around us is made up of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%) and small amounts of other gases. Both natural and human activities release gases that cause an imbalance in the air. These releases are called air pollutants. 

People exposed to high enough levels of certain air pollutants may experience: 

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
  • Wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and breathing difficulties
  • Worsening of existing lung and heart problems, such as asthma
  • Increased risk of heart attack  

In addition, long-term exposure to air pollution can cause cancer and damage to the immune, neurological, reproductive and respiratory systems. In extreme cases, it can even cause death. While air pollution can affect everyone's health, infants, children and older adults are more vulnerable to the effects.


Types of air pollutants

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, ordourless, and tasteless gas. It is a by-product of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. In Ontario, the main sources of CO emissions come from road vehicles and other forms of transportation. When CO is inhaled, it enters the blood stream and reduces our bloods ability to carry oxygen to our tissues and organs. Exposure to high levels of CO has been associated with impaired vision, headache, dizziness, weakness, confusion and may also lead to death. 

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) is a colourless gas, but unlike carbon monoxide, has an odour of burnt matches. In Ontario, the main source of SO2 emissions comes from utility and smelting industries. When SO2 is inhaled. it can cause severe irritation of the nose and throat and can result in various respiratory symptoms and conditions including asthma. Exposure to high concentration of SO2 can cause death.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is a reddish-brown gas with a strong, irritating odour. NO2 is a major product of all combustion and plays a big role in the production of ground-level ozone. In Ontario, the main sources of NO2 emissions come from road vehicles and other forms of transportation. When NO2 is inhaled, it can irritate the lungs and may lower the resistance to respiratory infections.

Particulate Matter (PM) is a mixture of solid and liquid particles in the air. It can come in a wide variety of sizes including PM10 and PM2.5

  • Inhalable Particulate Matter or PM10 is 10 microns in diameter and less.
  • Respirable Particulate Matter or PM2.5 is 2.5 microns in diameter and less.

In Ontario, the major sources of PM include residential sectors, transportation sectors and industrial processes. Breathing in both PM10 and PM2.5 can cause a variety of health problems including respiratory illness. Since PM2.5 is smaller than PM10, it can travel deeper into our lungs and has the potential to cause more serious health effects. Exposure to PM2.5 has been associated with hospital admissions and premature death.

Ozone (O3) is a colourless and odourless gas that is created when emissions, containing nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, react in the presence of sunlight. Ozone tends to be a problem around cities during hot summer days. When ozone is inhaled, it can irritate the respiratory tract and eyes. Exposure to high levels of ozone has been associated with various respiratory problems including chest tightness, coughing and wheezing. It has also been associated with an increase in hospital admissions and premature death.