Toronto Air Quality Study Shows Too Many Lives at Risk

Toronto Public Health will present a major research study today on\r\nair quality to the Board of Health and will ask the board to support\r\nurgent action to reduce air pollution.

Toronto Public Health will present a major research study today on air quality to the Board of Health and will ask the board to support urgent action to reduce air pollution.

Dr. Sheela Basrur, medical officer of health, and Dr. David Pengelly, an internationally recognized air quality expert with the University of Toronto and McMaster, will present the recently released study, "Air Pollution Burden of Illness on Toronto."

This study determined that each year approximately 1,000 Toronto residents die prematurely, and another 5,500 are admitted to the hospital because of air pollution.

"One thousand premature deaths from air pollution is equivalent to four international jets crashing each year and killing everyone on board. If air pollution deaths were this visible to everyone, I am sure we would see much faster progress on improving air quality," said Basrur.

Contrary to popular belief, air pollution is a health problem year round, not just in the summer.

The pollutants examined in this study, and which are responsible for most of the harm to health, are present at unhealthy levels every month of the year.

These pollutants are caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel from vehicles, coal from power plants, and oil and gas to heat buildings.

"Regarding air quality standards, our study indicates that existing regulations are not adequate to protect human health," said Pengelly. "In general, Toronto''s pollution levels are well below those permitted by both the federal and provincial government. Despite this, we have an enormous burden of illness in this city due to bad air."

The Board of Health will be asked to support three key areas for action: federal/provincial investment in public transit; improvement of air quality standards; and accelerated action on controlling pollution from coal fired power plants.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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