Toronto Public Health encourages everyone to follow Canada’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) for current air quality indicators in Toronto and how to protect your health from air pollution and wildfire smoke.


Toronto, like many parts of Canada and the U.S., has been experiencing more frequent air quality events this year due to smoke from wildfires.

Air pollution can cause cardiovascular and respiratory health problems, affect birth outcomes, brain development and function, and is linked to cancer, chronic diseases (including diabetes), and other illnesses.

TPH estimates that air pollution in Toronto from all sources currently contributes to 1,300 premature deaths and 3,550 hospitalizations annually.

Recent trends in levels of the five most common air pollutants suggest that air quality in Toronto is improving. However, more still needs to be done to curb emissions in the City.

See below to learn more about how to protect yourself from air pollution, what you can do to reduce air pollution emissions.

Reducing your exposure to air pollution and wildfire smoke is the best way to protect your health. The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a valuable tool for assessing air quality and deciding what actions you should take. When the AQHI is moderate or high, it will be updated with advice for the general population and at-risk groups.

People react differently to air pollution, including wildfire smoke. Some people are at a higher risk of health problems when exposed to air pollution, including seniors, pregnant people, infants and young children, and people with chronic heart or lung conditions. People who work outdoors or who exercise outdoors are at greater risk of adverse effects due to breathing in more of the contaminants in air pollution and wildfire smoke. Very sensitive individuals may experience severe and frequent symptoms when outdoors, while mildly sensitive individuals may only experience mild and infrequent or no symptoms after high exposures to air pollution.

Mild irritation and discomfort are common symptoms from exposure to wildfire smoke, and usually disappear when the smoke clears. Drinking lots of water can help your body cope with the smoke. Monitor the AQHI regularly during wildfire smoke events as AQHI levels can change hour-to-hour.

Visit the AQHI health guide to evaluate your sensitivity to air pollution, and consult the AQHI health messages for guidance for the general population and at-risk groups.

Check the AQHI and recommended health messages regularly, especially when considering outdoor events and activities. At-risk groups should pay careful attention to the AQHI health messages to reduce their exposure to air pollution when AQHI levels are elevated. People at higher risk of health effects should consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous outdoor activities.

People organizing outdoor events should assess the AQHI and consider the following when making decisions about holding, continuing, or modifying an event:

  • If the health risk is moderate (between 4 and 6 on the AQHI) – reduce the intensity of the activity or reschedule the event, especially if participants start experiencing symptoms.
  • If the health risk is high (7 or more on the AQHI) – reschedule the event.

People participating in sports outdoors breathe more deeply and rapidly, increasing their exposure to air pollution. When the AQHI is moderate or high, it is important to reduce the intensity of activities or reschedule events, especially if participants start experiencing symptoms.

Check the AQHI forecast for Toronto and recommended health messages regularly, especially during periods of poor air quality. Find out if you might be at higher risk of health problems from air pollution like wildfire smoke and adjust your activities accordingly. Protect your health when the AQHI is high or very high due to wildfire smoke. Check on the people around you during periods of poor air quality if you can.

Learn more about how to use the AQHI and about the AQHI scale and health messages.

An emission is a pollutant that is discharged to the environment, like the exhaust from cars and trucks or smoke from wood-burning. Emissions from traffic and homes, including houses and apartments, are the biggest contributors to air pollution emitted in Toronto. Finding ways to reduce your energy use both at home and on the road will help to reduce emissions and lead to cleaner air for everyone.

Ways to Reduce Your Emissions at Home

  • Conserve electricity year-round by adjusting the heat or air conditioner and turning off lights you are not using
  • Use cold water instead of hot water every time you wash your clothes
  • Reduce the number of drying cycles by half (by hanging your clothes or making sure your dryer is full)
  • Keep all air vents and doors to unused rooms closed when your furnace or air conditioner is operating
  • Clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator by brushing off or vacuuming the dust
  • Use your dishwasher only when full; use the energy saving or light wash cycle; select the air dry option
  • Turn off computers, TVs and other electrical appliances when not in use; to reduce “phantom” or “stand-by” power use, plug electrical items into a power bar and switch off
  • Close the fireplace damper or air-tight fireplace door after each use of your fireplace
  • Replace your standard light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs

Ways to Reduce Your Emissions on the Road

Reduce vehicle use:

  • Carpool – share a ride to work, school or to events
  • Use public transit – take the bus, streetcar, subway or GO Train
  • Walk and bike – use your legs for great exercise
  • Telework – work from home even once a month and make a difference
  • Trip chain – combine errands into one journey rather than making several separate car trips

Reduce vehicle emissions:

  • Keep your tires properly inflated; check your tire pressure at least twice a month and add air when needed
  • Keep your engine properly tuned
  • Take your time speeding up and slowing down
  • Limit the amount you idle your engine – it wastes gas and creates air pollution
  • Choose an energy-efficient vehicle; larger cars and engines often burn more fuel and cost more money to run
  • Consider a hybrid or electric vehicle

You can take steps to reduce the amount of emissions that enter your home during periods of poor air quality including wildfire smoke events:

  • Close windows and doors if the temperature is comfortable indoors or use air conditioning to cool your home if available
  • Use the highest efficiency filter that is approved for your HVAC system – refer to the manufacturer’s and/or installer’s instructions
  • If possible, set your HVAC system to recirculate to prevent it from drawing in outside air until conditions improve
  • Limit the use of exhaust fans when cooking or showering as these may draw in outside air

Other measures to keep indoor air clean:

  • Don’t smoke or vape indoors when trying to keep your indoor air clean
  • Reduce indoor sources of particulate matter – refrain from lighting candles and incense, frying foods, using a gas stove and vacuuming
  • If you do not have a HVAC system with a filter, a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter can clean the air in one area of your home

If you have trouble maintaining cool, clean air inside your home during a wildfire smoke event, take a break from the smoke at a safe public place that typically has air conditioning and filtered air including:

  • libraries
  • shopping malls
  • community centres

Due to climate change, wildfires have become an increasingly significant concern worldwide, causing widespread impact on ecosystems, communities, and public health. The effects of wildfires extend beyond the immediate vicinity of the fire, as smoke can travel long distances, impacting air quality in distant regions.

In June 2023, Toronto experienced the consequences of wildfire smoke on its air quality, which can affect the health of the population, especially for people who are vulnerable and disproportionately impacted by poor air quality.  In response to these unprecedented air quality impacts, Toronto Public Health (TPH) has prepared this initial Wildfire Smoke Response Strategy.