Ontario fails Heart and Stroke air quality test

Air pollution has a serious impact on heart health

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s 2008 Report Card on Canadian Health has found Ontario and Quebec produce enough smog to make the Suntots cry.

The study, released on Monday, measured air quality and cardiovascular risk across Canada. Both Ontario and Quebec received an “F” for having the highest exposure to fine particulate " tiny particles or droplets in the air " pollution in the country.

Dr. Robert Hegele, Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher at the Robarts Research Institute, said air pollution has a serious impact on health in Ontario.

He said high concentrations of fine particulate matter " produced by factories, automobiles and fires " increase the risk of heart attack and stroke dramatically.

Dr. Hegele, who also teaches medicine and biochemistry at Western, noted many survey respondents were unaware that poor air quality leads to heart problems.

“Most [respondents] were aware of the link between air pollution and lung disease ... but only one in 10 recognized the link between air quality and heart disease.”

According to the study, air pollution leads to 6,000 deaths per year in Canada " 69 per cent of which are heart-related.

Southwestern Ontario has the worst air quality in the country but James Skimming, air quality manager for the City of London, said half of our pollution comes from the United States.

Still, London’s emissions contribute to a corridor of pollution spanning from Windsor to Montreal, according to Dr. Hegele.

“London isn’t an outlier, but we’re no better than the Greater Toronto Area,” Dr. Hegele said. “They have about 20 smog advisories [per year] " the same as in London.”

Skimming said the city has taken on a number of initiatives to reduce air pollution.

“London isn’t a heavily industrial city, so most of our pollution comes from our day-to-day lives,” he said.

City of London Controller Gina Barber assured money is being invested in public transit, bicycle lanes and smarter urban planning. The city has also launched an online “carpool zone,” where commuters can arrange shared rides to work.

“We are also raising community awareness to change the behaviours of individuals,” Skimming added.

Will Bortolin, EnviroWestern co-ordinator, said although there is no quick fix to air pollution, students generally practise more positive environmental behaviours.

“It comes down to the sum of small things, like taking public transit more often, and looking for ways to cut down on [your] hydro bill.

“The best we can do ... is set a strong example of responsible power consumption and efficient transportation and hope that others are inspired by the precedent we set,” Bortolin concluded.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette