Air quality in the Yukon

  • Air quality monitoring
  • Managing air quality

  1. Air quality monitoring

    Poor air quality can affect the natural environment and public health. We track air quality and pollution to understand possible health impacts on Yukoners. Examples of air pollution sources are:

    • wood stoves;
    • forest fires;
    • vehicles;
    • diesel generators;
    • quarrying;
    • burning garbage or waste; and
    • other commercial and industrial activity.

    The Government of Yukon conducts air quality monitoring in collaboration with the City of Whitehorse and federal agencies.

    Industry also conducts air quality monitoring when a permit requires them to.

    We monitor air quality by measuring concentrations of specific pollutants. When these pollutants are above certain concentrations, they can affect human health.

    Current air quality in Whitehorse

    See current air quality in Whitehorse. 

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    National Air Pollution Surveillance Network

    The Government of Yukon has operated an outdoor air quality monitoring station in downtown Whitehorse since 2011. Pollutants monitored at the station include fine particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide.

    This station is part of Environment and Climate Change Canada's (ECCC) National Air Pollution Surveillance (NAPS) network. The NAPS network is a Canada-wide program that monitors air quality in each of the territories and provinces.

    Data from the Whitehorse station feeds into a Canada-wide air quality database. The data is used to generate a real-time air quality health index (AQHI) and to forecast air quality for the Whitehorse area. The AQHI’s risk index ranges from 1 (low) to 10 (very high). The index tells us about health risks associated with the current air quality.

    See the Guide to Air Quality Health Index forecasts for more information about air quality in Whitehorse.

    Purple air

    See real-time air quality measured by purple air sensors on an interactive map.

    In fall 2019, the Government of Yukon started a pilot program in collaboration with the Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health and Environment and Climate Change Canada to install small particulate matter sensors called purple air sensors . This program is ongoing and is testing the performance of purple air sensors in the North.

    Whitehorse Air Quality Monitoring Study

    From 2015 to 2017, the Whitehorse Air Quality Monitoring Study looked at air quality in 9 different neighbourhoods.

    The Government of Yukon undertook this study in partnership with the office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the City of Whitehorse and Health Canada. The study monitored fine particulate matter such as pollen, woodsmoke and dust.

    The Whitehorse Air Quality Monitoring Study started as a pilot to address concerns pollution in Whitehorse neighbourhoods and to complement the National Air Pollution Surveillance network.

    See the results.

    In 2018, a 2nd round of air quality monitoring started for 8 of the 9 neighbourhoods and 1 monitoring location in Dawson City. We expect to complete this round of monitoring in winter 2020.

    Air quality data from this study help inform and plan future activities.

    Air quality outside Whitehorse

    There are currently no other National Air Pollution Surveillance stations in the Yukon outside of Whitehorse. These stations are expensive and need significant resources to operate and maintain. We're looking to expand the Yukon’s air quality monitoring network through other means, such as purple air sensors.

  2. Managing air quality

    Air Quality Management System

    The Government of Yukon is part of the Air Quality Management System (AQMS). This is a comprehensive approach for reducing air pollution in Canada. It requires each territory and province to produce an annual Air Zone Report.

    Air zone reports include:

    We use data from the Whitehorse National Air Pollution Surveillance station to produce the annual air zone reports.

    Controlling air emissions

    The Government of Yukon regulates the release of air emissions in the Yukon. We use Yukon Ambient Air Quality Standards to find out if the emissions from proposed and existing projects are acceptable. You need a permit to release air emissions.

    We also regulate the use of ozone depleting substances and other halocarbons (ODS&OH) in the Yukon. You need a permit to use ODS&OH.