Canada's Condominium Magazine

Toronto-Area Pollution Disproportionate Across Communities

A study shed light on potential differences in the effects of pollution amongst various communities and groups. The Global Burden of Disease Study examined general pollution as well as toxins dumped into waterways. The study concluded that airborne pollutants contribute to approximately 2.9 million deaths per year, with at least 9 million deaths in 2015 as a result of pollution.

Statistics Canada also published a report in the spring of 2017, which tested a hypothesis that immigrants were more susceptible to the effects of air pollution if they arrived in gateway cites like Toronto and Vancouver before moving to smaller communities.

However, Lauren Pinault, one of the study’s co-authors, stated that the hypothesis was wrong. Instead, it seemed that recent immigrants stay in areas with higher pollution levels. They did, however, learn that air pollution impacts certain areas, as well as ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the Greater Toronto Area, differently.

 

“Socioeconomic, visible minority, and demographic data for children were derived from the 2006 Canadian Census long-form questionnaire, representing a random sample of 20 per cent of the three urban populations,” read a StatsCan report published in July of 2016. “Children were included in the study if they lived within the boundaries of the LUR models for Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, were younger than age 18, and did not live in an institution.”

Pinault says that the city of Toronto was chosen for the study due to its high density, high levels of air pollution, and its diversity which made it a prime location for testing her team’s theory.

During the study, air pollution exposure was found to be higher in visible minority groups by 1.61 micrograms per cubic metre. Among low-income visible minorities, air pollution exposure was 2.08 micrograms per cubic metre higher than in high-income populations. However, the differences between ethnic groups were less noticeable in downtown Toronto. According to the report, “substantial differences in PM2.5 exposure by socioeconomic status were not observed, but in urban cores, residents of low-income households had marginally higher exposure than did people who did not live in a low-income household.”

 

 

Dr. Chris Carlsten at the University of British Columbia, a respiratory specialist, argued that it was unlikely that a 1.6 microgram per cubic metre difference would have measurable effects, “even after years and decades.” However, despite the slight differences, he said that it was conceivable that health effects would arise in the long run, depending on someone’s sensitivity to air pollution.

“If you’re living at low-exposure levels – so a cleaner environment – then over years, it is possible, and there’s some evidence to substantiate the argument that that level of exposure difference over years could make a difference for people living in a relatively clean environment.”

Carlsten wants to use events such as wildfires to determine if Statistic Canada’s conclusion that people of various groups are disproportionately affected by air pollution is replicable, and he says he is paying attention to events projected to happen over the next years and decades with focus on exposure levels as well as differences between minorities and non-minorities.

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