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Health Canada to measure pollution using Terra sat data

Ottawa, Canada: Health Canada, the federal health department of Canada, is considering spending up to USD 430,000 on a study that will measure the levels of two pollutants — nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter such as aerosols, smoke and fumes — in the air above Canada and the US by using NASA satellite imagery.

Health Canada will then combine what they learn with census data from Statistics Canada to examine any link between mortality rates and exposure to pollution coming from traffic, industry and other sources of combustion.

The study will involve using instruments on the NASA Terra satellite. The challenge with the satellite instruments is that they measure everything from the ground up to 10 kilometres above the Earth, where pollutants have less of an impact on human health.

So, Health Canada is paying for researchers to develop a computer model they can integrate with the satellite data to calculate the annual average concentration of pollutants where people live and work.

The government hopes the study will provide a greater understanding of the pollution in the air far from the ground monitoring stations.

According to The Star report, the usual way to measure the amount of pollution in the air is through data collected by ambient air monitoring stations set up around the country. The problem with this method is that there are a limited number of monitoring stations and they tend to be concentrated in urban areas. There are 40 stations in Ontario and nine are in the Greater Toronto Area.

That means there is an information gap when it comes to how much air pollution there is in remote and rural areas.

“The challenge is if you want to measure where all the people are, you would have to set up the monitors everywhere where there are people,” said Aaron van Donkelaar, a post-doctoral fellow in the department of physics and atmospheric sciences at Dalhousie University, where he has done similar research before.

Source: The Star