Breathe Easy

What is “Breathe Easy” ?

Breathe Easy is a community-level project to measure Ottawa’s air quality, inspired by the INHALE project in Toronto (Toronto Environmental Alliance) and Hamilton (Environment Hamilton). Partnering with the Ottawa chapter of Sierra Club Canada, the air quality of Ottawa’s arboretum will be compared to the air quality near daycares, schools and senior centres, where congregate the city’s most vulnerable residents. Volunteers will be asked to walk, roll, ride or run in all areas of the city while carrying an easy to use mobile air monitoring device that can be attached to bikes, wheelchairs, backpacks, scooters or baby strollers. Low-cost monitors are used to measure and map air quality with residents, supporting well-informed actions and helping to bring the topic of air quality to a wider audience, including city councillors and city staff.

The air quality data, matched with GPS coordinates, is uploaded to an online map. This tool will allow online users to identify both good and poor air quality areas in their neighbourhood. Identifying ‘hot spots’ across the city for air particulate, O3 and NO2 pollution is an important first step in sparking community dialogue around neighbourhood-level solutions designed to improve air quality and ultimately, quality of life.

The campaign’s objectives

The goal of the “Breathe Easy” campaign is to promote citizen-led science, as well as inform the community about their local air quality. The final analysis will inform councillors and city staff with regards to the best way forward to commit to constant monitoring of Ottawa’s air. We are also looking to encourage engagement and ongoing conversations between city staff and residents regarding the development of solutions that can be co-created and co-led.

Health and environmental impacts of poor air quality

Air pollution is hard to escape, no matter where you live. The Government of Canada estimates that 14,600 premature deaths per year in the country can be linked to air pollution from fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Air pollution can affect breathing and lung conditions, heart conditions, and can also increase the risk of stroke. Indeed, one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.

The natural environment also suffers from air pollution. The primary effect of the deposition of particle matter (mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air that includes aerosols, smoke, fumes, dust, ash and pollen), on vegetation are reduced growth and productivity. It therefore deteriorates natural habitats for many animal species.

Come join the conversation about the importance of monitoring air quality. Register for the webinar here:

Do you want to get involved?

We need “Air Trackers”! Do you want to volunteer? Email

Monitoring sites

Throughout the summer months, Ecology Ottawa staff and volunteers will monitor 40 sites – 20 Site A’s, and 20 Site B’s for comparison. The Arboretum will be the baseline data set, monitored on every day we will be monitoring other locations.

Each site will be monitored 3 times in order to ensure the natural variations of regular air quality are accounted for in our analysis, as well as ensure standardization of our air quality readings.

Head to this link for an interactive map:

Flag pin (green) – Site A

Dropped pin (red) – Site B

A few photos from Toronto Environmental Alliance’s INHALE project.

This project was made possible thanks to the following partnerships: