Travelling Air Pollutants? Trent University student Dane Blanchard studies Sandbanks Provincial Park

What do you think about when you hear the word “smog“?

Air pollution? Dark dust clouds? Downtown urban centres?  Weather Canada air quality warnings?

We tend to associate smog with urban centres, especially on hot summer days!!

But did you know that smog can be just as prevalent in rural settings, too?

Dane Blanchard’s undergraduate honours thesis at Trent University with supervisor Professor Julian Aherne, focused on studying a nasty pollutant called ground level ozone (O3) (a major component of the brown haze we know as smog) which is formed through a reaction with sunlight & air pollutants.

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O3 affects the elderly and the young the most and it can be detrimental to vegetation as it can stunt growth …And can even cause plant death 😦

Last summer, from July – September, Dane and his supervisor developed a research study to measure the levels of ground level ozone in Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Sandbanks was selected because:

  1. It is located in a rural setting
  2. There were no active air quality monitoring stations
  3.  Prominent Lake Ontario lake effect, which increases night time land breeze circulation and low atmospheric air masses mixing together.

These features presented an ideal region to investigate O3 concentrations.

Dane measured the levels of ground-level ozone using passive sampling research methods (simple, cheap, tube-shaped instruments that can be installed in high numbers).

Dane set up 24 sites throughout the park to measure the air quality with passive samplers over 4 back-to-back 2-week exposure periods.

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Dane’s primary results have found that ground-level ozone levels appear to be higher at the immediate shoreline on the Sandbanks beach, (AKA where visitors spend the most time!!!). Once you move away from the shoreline, the concentration decreases.

This might suggest that there are a lot of pollutants being blown from urban/industrial centers such as Toronto. Pollutants are moving over Lake Ontario due to predominant winds, which are influenced by the lake effect, potentially impacting air quality in rural shore regions like Sandbanks

 

Although the levels of the pollutants may not be enough to impact human health right now, as the years progress, more and more pollutants may have negative effects on vegetation and human health.

Remember – just because air quality might seem clean in one area, it doesn’t mean that pollutants cannot enter the region from other areas.

Ground-level ozone & other pollutants in one city can affect us all – and this is why it is so important to reduce our emissions by driving less, biking more, and committing #RandomActsofGreen as much as possible!

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Thanks Dane for your insightful research and for helping us communicate the importance of healthy air quality – for all.

“The past four years at Trent have been profound regarding their defining influence over my character. Through the experience I have had along side friends, peers, and faculty at this institution, I have become acquainted with my own passion for academics and the exploration of the unknown. I know that what I have gained from this degree will have a significant role in defining who I am in the years to come.”

 

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