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GTA residents underestimate exposure to air pollution

Tuesday, June 6th 2006 9:40:56am

New GTA wide polling on public perceptions of air quality sparks new public health concerns

(Toronto, June 6, 2006) Today, air quality polling data was released on the attitudes and perceptions of GTA residents. The findings show that residents living outside downtown Toronto underestimate their air pollution exposure.  In fact, the results are contrary to actual regional air quality data, announced Eva Ligeti, Executive Director of the Clean Air Partnership.

Although scientific measurements of air quality collected by the Ministry of the Environment at locations across the entire GTA consistently show equally poor levels at all locations including Toronto, residents living away from downtown Toronto have an overestimated perception of their air quality.   Over 62 per cent of respondents believed that the air near their residences was significantly better than in downtown Toronto.

Research by the Ontario Medical Association shows that smog contributes to almost 1,500 deaths each year in Toronto alone.  Add another 1,100 deaths when you include the Durham, Halton, Peel and York Regions. If we do not make necessary reductions in air pollution, this number will increase in the next 20 years to well over 4,300 premature deaths every year in the GTA.

In late May, six GTA politicians (see below) took part in local air quality testing to gather information and raise awareness of the regional concerns of air quality especially for those most at risk.

Dr. Greg Evans of the University of Toronto helped design and supervise the air sampling. “Air quality can have as much of an impact in the suburbs as in downtown Toronto. Particles are one of the main pollutants of concern.  Sources such as coal plants can influence the concentrations of particles throughout the GTA or southern Ontario in general, whereas local sources such as vehicles can influence concentrations within communities or neighbourhoods. Governments at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, and individuals, all have roles to play in improving air quality.”

Dr. David Pengelly, a member of McMaster University’s Institute of Environment and Health, also provided important context to the study with 45 years experience in the field of air quality.  He observed that, “It is essential to everyone’s health that we have clean air to breathe. Every day, on average, poor air quality in the GTA and throughout the province kills approximately 15 people, and leads to about 150 persons seeking urgent medical help.  Municipal, Provincial and Federal governments must show leadership, commitment and provide resources to declare a “War on Pollution”.  

Ms Ligeti concluded by saying that, “Basically, everywhere in the GTA people are at risk.  People across the GTA need to be aware that air pollution is harmful to their health and they need to take health precautions, especially children and the elderly, in addition to reducing emissions, no matter where they live and work.”

Solutions to air pollution will be the focus of the Smog Summit being convened at Toronto City Hall on June 7 and 8, 2006.

GTA politicians who took air samples: Toronto City Councillor John Filion, Markham Deputy Mayor Frank Scarpitti, Acting Pickering Mayor Rick Johnson, Ajax Councillor Colleen Jordan, Peel Regional Councillor Annette Groves, Burlington Councillor Joan Lougheed


For more information, please contact: Eva Ligeti, Executive Director, Clean Air Partnership
416.392.6672 office

The Clean Air Partnership is a charitable organization that works in partnership to promote and coordinate improvements to local air quality for healthier communities. Our sponsors and partners for this event include Enbridge Gas Distribution, City of Toronto, Toronto Atmospheric Fund, Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, GTA Clean Air Council, Toronto Hydro Corporation, Golder Associates, Warren’s Waterless Printing, and Bullfrog Power.