Source: http://www.thestar.com/ By: Todd Coyne Staff Reporter
Toronto small-scale air polluters — such as laundries — cause 120 deaths, 200 hospitalizations every year, says a Toronto Public Health report
Neighbourhood polluters like autobody shops and corner laundries cause the deaths of at least 120 city residents ever year, according to a new Toronto Public Health report.
The 2014 ChemTRAC study is the first of its kind in Canada to measure the impacts of local, low-emitting polluters and to attribute a body count to industries as diverse as coin-op cleaners and city-vehicle repair bays.
The report collected 2012 data from more than 700 businesses and city-run facilities that emitted at least one of 25 high-priority pollutants in significant amounts.
The report attributes 120 premature deaths and 200 hospitalizations for heart and lung diseases to air pollution, while deaths related to exposure to cancer-causing toxins like cadmium — commonly found in welding and manufacturing businesses — and tetrachloroethylene, a liquid used in dry cleaning, could not be proven directly and were not counted.
“These are just from respiratory and cardiac diseases,” said Toronto Public Health spokesperson Ronald Macfarlane, saying heart-attack and stroke are among the biggest pollution-related causes of death. “We don’t have the information to estimate the cancer contribution.”
Likewise, illnesses linked to non-airborne, non-carcinogenic toxins like mercury and lead in city waterways are not counted among the casualties, although their emissions are counted in the ChemTRAC data.
In all, 745 facilities either made, processed or used approximately 71,000 tonnes of priority pollutants in 2012. Of those, about 10 per cent, or 8,000 tonnes, were released directly into the environment, mostly into the air.
“Knowing that the air is polluted is one thing,” Coun. Gord Perks (see Gord Perks’s policard) told the Star. “Knowing that it comes from these specific places in your neighbourhood, I think, empowers Torontonians to better understand what needs to be done to make our air safe and healthy to breathe.”
The Toronto Board of Health approved a motion Monday asking that the provincial government partner with the city in encouraging ChemTRAC polluters to reduce their emissions by 2015.
“That’s a very complicated way of dealing with the fact that we don’t have clean regulatory jurisdictions around pollution,” Perks said.
While the city has greater leverage over polluters who dump toxins into city sewers and waterways, air pollution falls squarely under provincial jurisdiction.
The purpose of the ChemTRAC report, according to Macfarlane, is to fill in the gaps in Environment Canada’s annual National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI), a survey which only measures pollutants from large-scale industrial emitters.
“We are able to get a much finer grain of information in terms of the more highly toxic substances (with ChemTRAC),” Macfarlane said.
While the GTA is home to its share of large-scale polluters too, it has many more small- to medium-scale emitters which are missed by the NPRI survey and are potentially more dangerous to Toronto residents, Macfarlane said.
“We are a very large urban centre where people live quite closeby to industry, so the potential for impact is much greater.”