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Outdoor Air Quality, Health and the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)

Outdoor air pollution plays a significant role in impacting health. Exposure to outdoor air pollution has been associated with adverse health outcomes, including impaired lung function, exacerbation of asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease and impacts on the cardiovascular system that may lead to hospitalization and premature death.

Ambient air quality affects not only individuals with heart and breathing problems but also pregnant women, the very young and the elderly. On October 17, 2013 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, declared that it has classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). A causal relationship was observed between outdoor air pollution exposure and lung cancer, as was a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer from such exposure (World Health Organization, http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/pr221_E.pdf).

While individual risk to ambient air pollution is relatively small, poor air quality impacts large exposed population. Recent research from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study (GBD) has shown that four of the top five chronic diseases affected by air pollution include ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, lower respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders.

With funding support by Health Canada, the UBC School of Population and Public Health and leading air pollution and health experts developed a free, on demand, accredited web-based course that featured multimedia content and a comprehensive overview on air pollution and health effects. Topics covered include commonly measured air pollutants and their sources; health effects associated with short- and long-term exposure to air pollution, and how air pollution is a contributing risk factor to chronic diseases; use of the AQHI to advise patients/clients on reducing exposure and mitigating effects from air pollution.

After completion of this course, physicians and other health professionals can become better informed on air quality and health effects, and be able to advise patients and the public to help them reduce their exposure to air pollution.


  • Funding from Health Canada ended on January 31, 2016. Previously approved CME credits for physicians are no longer available, although certain health professionals may still claim learning credits (please check with your accreditation bodies.)
  • As demand for this course continues the UBC School of Population and Public Health is extending the offer as an learning opportunity of the subject matter. This free course remains open until March 31, 2021.

Continuation of the course beyond this date will be determined at that time. If you feel this course offers education value and would like its availability continued, please let us know.


To begin course enrollment:

Please fill in the registration form below with a UBC Campus-Wide Login (CWL) name.   If you do not have a UBC CWL account, please click on the banner below for UBC CWL account sign-up instructions.  You will receive an email when your course enrolment has been processed and be sent a notification to begin the course.

UBC CWL account sign-up instructions
To proceed with course enrollment, please follow these steps:
Step 1: Sign up for UBC CWL account

Please read this first and select BASIC account

Click this link to CREATE NEW CWL.

After completing the CWL sign-up steps, you will receive an activation email at the address you provided; you should activate your account by following instructions in the activation email.

Note: You must activate your account within 72 hours from account setup; otherwise, it will be removed from the system and you will not have a valid CWL login name.

Please retain your login name and password – both will be required for account activation.

Step 2: Enroll in course (after activation of your UBC CWL account) Fill in the course registration form below.
Step 3: Access the course You will receive an email with the course link to enter the course. Please expect up to 72 hours for this email to arrive in your inbox.


Have questions about the course enrollment procedure? Please contact Lydia Ma.

Accreditation for Health Professionals
Accreditation for the following health professionals
College and Association of Respiratory Therapists of Alberta One (1) continuing competency hour for each hour of online learning.
Manitoba Association of Registered Respiratory Therapists One (1) continuing competency hour for each hour of online learning.
College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario This course would be an appropriate learning activity to be included in various quality assurance programs or CE credits for Respiratory Therapists who have identified a related learning goal.
Nova Scotia College of Respiratory Therapists One (1) credit hour for each hour of online learning.
New Brunswick Association of Respiratory Therapists  One (1) point for each hour of the course.
Ordre professionnel des inhalothérapeutes du Québec (OPIQ) Two (2) continuing education hours for the completion of the course.
Canadian Nurses Association As part of their activities to maintain continued competency to practice, registered nurses may report participation in this course and the application of learning outcomes in their learning plan section of their annual self-assessment. In addition, RNs considering using this course as part of their continuous learning (CL) activities for CNA Certification Renewal should consult the CNA Certification Program renewal CL guidelines to ensure that this course meets the CL requirements. Nurses can find information about the CNA Certification Program at http://www.cna-aiic.ca/en/professional-development/specialty-certification/
Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors  One (1) PDH for each hour of online learning.  Approval number CPC-2012-05


The American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) and the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP) had previously approved this course for certification maintenance.  However, ABIH and BCRSP no longer issue approval numbers.  Completion of this course may still be eligible for ABIH CM points and BCRSP CMPs, respectively.  Certificants are advised to review the websites of ABIH and BCRSP for more information.

Registration Form: UBC Outdoor Air Quality and Health and the AQHI


Dr. Lydia Ma
Continuing Education Director