Health Effects of Air Pollution,


March 5, 2008


Mr. Chairman, and honoured guests,


With your permission

I would like to dedicate my presentation this evening

to the memory

of Dr. Donald Chant.


Dr. Chant was a Canadian scientist

who dedicated his life

to our understanding

of environmental issues.

At various times he was a resident

of both Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.

I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Chant personally

in the last 5 years of his life.

He passed away in December 2007.

I am going to describe to you

Six..... scenarios air quality.

1. You are standing next to someone

who is smoking..... a cigaret.

You......start.... To........ cough.

2. You suffer from asthma...or some other chronic lung disorder.

You dread the arrival of the hot humid days of summer

with their attendant high Smog Index.

Because you know that on those days

unless you spend the day...

indoors, beside the air conditioner

that you will again...

start.... To.... cough

3. You are out for a walk in town one winter evening.

The air is fresh and clean...

until you walk by a house

where someone is burning wood in their fireplace.

There is wood smoke in the air....

You .......start...... to....... cough.

4. You are out riding your bicycle one day

and it is very pleasant

except every time a diesel truck passes you

you inhale a lung full of exhaust

and......You ....start..... to ....cough.

5. You are out sailing in Picton Bay a strong wind.

As you approach the cement plant ..on the western shore

powerful downdrafts ...blow smoke .....almost undiluted

from the smokestack... over the cliff .....down to the Bay.

You inhale a few choking breaths...

And..... you .....start.... to........ cough.

6. You are stuck in your car in traffic in the summer

at the corner of North Front Street, and Bell Blvd.

Your windows are rolled up,

the air conditioning is on,

And ....the air inside the car seems fine....

But....guess what,

you ........start...... to ........cough.

When you first think of the subject of Air quality,

you might say to yourself,

Well, it sounds a little dry.............doesn't really affect me...

the air around town ...seems to be pretty good...

so what is the concern?

But the 6 examples that I have just given

are common ones...

that any of us might encounter

And this is the reason that

Air-quality ......and air pollution

has been a very big public health issue in Canada

in the last few years.

Breathing clean air,

like drinking clean water,

is a very fundamental requirement....

for good health.

Now, of course, it needs to be said,

before we go any further

on the subject of air pollution

that the elephant in the room this evening,

is cigaret smoking...which remains by far and away

the leading cause of disease

compared to any other sources of air pollution.

There are said to be

some 4000 chemicals in cigaret smoke,

and, as we now know

none of them.... are good for you,

But the lessons learned

from the cigaret smoking story

are proving to be very useful

in the air pollution story

as the health effects are rather similar.

So this evening I want to focus

on these other sources....of air pollution.

The six examples that I have used

actually illustrate ..the most common sources

of air pollution , which are:

1. automobile exhaust,

2. the burning of wood and coal,

3. the burning of waste,

4. and last, but not least,

emissions from industrial smoke stacks.

And when it comes to

industrial sources specifically

a good example is .....the Cement industry

which is the biggest industry in the world.

In the Great Lakes basin region

there are about 20 cement plants

so the contribution of the cement industry alone

to air pollution in our significant.

And I'll return to this issue a little later.

Now there are actually only 3 things

that you need to know about

the physics and chemistry of air pollution:

They are :

1. Particulate matter,

2. particulate matter, and .....

3. Particulate matter.

There are other components

to the chemical composition

of polluted well.

Actually, there are about 8 categories altogether....

in the chemical composition of polluted air

but tonight we are going to focus on

Particulate matter

because its presence in the air we breathe

has clear implications for human health

which are now well understood.

So what is....this stuff?

Well first of all,

it is not a new subject.

In one of Charles Dickens' novels

Which was written in the setting of

the City of the mid 1800's

Dickens describes a scene in the city

in which he refers to a.. London Particular.

So what is....a London Particular???

Well, in his novel, Bleak House

we get a clue..... in the following lines:


"Smoke, lowering down from the chimney pots,

making a soft black drizzle,

with flakes of soot in it

as big as ...full grown.... snowflakes-

gone into mourning, one might imagine,

for the death of the sun....

"Fog ..everywhere...

Fog in the eyes and throats

of ancient Greenwich pensioners,

wheezing by the firesides of their wards."

(End of Quote)

(There is strong imagery here.)

Well, the coal and wood smoke

that left the chimneys....of 19th century London houses

consisted of particles.... of carbon,

which Dickens describes as being

the size of snowflakes.

These certainly would have

blackened the clothes,

if not the lungs, of the citizens.

So the term "London Particular"

referred to a London fog.

Today we are still burning coal and wood.

But the "particulate matter" issue

is much more complex now

than it was a century ago....

because in our industrial society

we are now producing some.. 80,000 chemicals

and these often end their life cycle

by being disposed of...

by being a waste incinerator.

So... particulate matter

coming out of industrial smoke stacks now

is a much more complex substance

then mere carbon particles

from wood and coal burning of earlier times.

You can think of modern particulate matter

as tiny blobs

which are made up potentially

of any of thousands of chemicals.

And the particles that we are talking about

are very small...indeed,

for example PM 2.5 refers to particles

that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter....

(one micron being 1/1000 mm)

Very tiny....virtually invisible to the naked eye .

When we breath in these particles,

they are able to get past

the filtration system of our lungs,

which is actually quite efficient,

but which however cannot stop

these very small particles

from finding their way

deep into the small airways... and airspaces

where they wreak havoc,

and cause problems.

So herein lies the problem.

And when Government air quality regulators

attempt to control air quality

they measure the concentrations of these particles.

Different scales are used by different jurisdictions

so it is all a little confusing.

Just for example, and to give you some idea

of what we are talking about

a couple of summers ago, one of the university scientists

took some measurements

at the side of the busy ....Plains Road in Hamilton, Ontario

on a typical smoggy summer day.

They used a smog meter.

When it was held at nose level

they measured an average particle count

in the the roadside

of about 12,000 particles ....of A/P .....per cc.

In other words, 12,000 particles

in a volume of air about the size of a sugar cube.

And, when a diesel powered delivery truck drove by,

the count shot up to 46,000 particles per cc.

If your work it out this means

that a person who is breathing normally

at that location.....for 6 minutes

while out walking quickly ,or jogging,

would breathe in

about 1 billion 6 min

So this really is a testimony

to the amazing defences

of the human respiratory system

that we are able to breath at all

in such an environment,

which after all is quite a common one.
This leads us to....the subject of Smog.

There has been quite a lot of discussion

about Smog the last few years.

Here in Belleville

we have had the distinction

on a number of occasions, usually during the summer,

of having the highest recorded.... Smog Index

in the whole of the province of Ontario.

The Ontario Medical Association

in June 2005..published its

ICAP study - the Illness Cost of Air Pollution- ICAP

which estimated for each community in the province

the number of .....premature deaths... and illnesses

that are currently .... caused by Ontario.

According to the OMA study Ontario in 2005

smog caused..... through its immediate effects

6,000 ......premature deaths, ......

and 17,000 hospital admissions.

And then just to confuse the issue,

the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation

just last month.... came out with the same figure,

6000 premature deaths ...due to smog,

but ....for the whole country....

rather than just the province of Ontario.

The health effect of smog on an individual...

is essentially the same as

the health effect of cigaret smoke.

In June 2005 ,Cancer Care Ontario,

our provincial cancer control agency

published a volume

entitled "Environmental Exposures and Cancer".

In that, they noted

that both.... cigaret smoke....and Smog cause

Heart Disease..... and Chronic Lung Disease.

When you think of those

12,000 particles per cc the air at the road side,

...Or 46,000 when that diesel truck drives by

...these are obviously very high counts.

When we breathe in these small particles

they cause Inflammation .....deep inside the lung,

which can cause .....chronic lung disease.

and from there, these particles

are absorbed into ....the blood stream

where they can cause.... Injury

to the blood vessels....and the heart

which can lead to

Hardening of the Arteries....and... Heart attack.

This Cardiovascular effect of smog

was the Women's Health Study

which was released last year.

One of the people who made us aware of this whole issue.

was the late Dr. David Bates. ....who passed away in 2006.

He was a British trained physician

whose interest in the health effects of air pollution

started in the early 1950's

as he bicycled around London , England,

while he rode back and forth to work

at St Bartholomew's Hospital . (stimulates interest in A/Q)

In December 1952, while Dr. Bates was living there,

a thick Fog descended on London....

for 4 days.

Coal burning was still very common then

and when the coal smoke...mixed together.... with this fog

it became....a thick sulphurous Smog.

And of course London at that time

was a city of cigaret smokers

whose lung and heart health

was therefore ...already compromised.

So during the next 2 months

12 000 people died prematurely

from heart and lung disease,

as a result of this..... killer London fog.

In other words 6 000 people died

in each of those two months...

Anyway , this incident in 1954

sparked Dr. Bates' interest

in the relationship between air pollution ....and lung disease.

He moved to 1956

to McGill University in Montreal

where he continued his research.

He had a particular interest in the effect of Ozone,

which is another type of air pollutant.

He moved to British Columbia in 1972.

In the 1980s, he and one of his colleagues

made the connection ....between air pollution ....

and hospital admissions southern Ontario,

which they called "the acid summer haze effect".

The idea being that..

when there was more haze in the air

there were more admissions to hospital.

In 1991, Dr. Bates helped to plan

the Children's Health Study,

which sponsored by the ...University of Southern California,

He worked on this for the next 15 years,

looking at ... lung function in children

who lived close to major highways.

The results were published just last year

by his colleague Dr. Gauderman.


So air pollution affects everyone to some degree

but it victimizes ....4 groups of people in particular.:

1. Children

2. the elderly

3. people who already have disease of the heart and blood vessels

and 4. people who have chronic lung disease.

With respect to the 4th group,

those people who already have some chronic lung disorder,

such as asthma....or chronic smoker's lung,

we have long been aware that such patients

may get worse due to.... infections

such as virus or bacterial infections.

However it has also not been unusual

to encounter patients

whose chronic lung conditions...have worsened,

even though they apparently have

not.....had any such... recent infection.

These patients have been a puzzle

until more recently...

when it has been recognized

that they may be suffering

from worsening of their lung problems

due to smog conditions.

So, to summarize health effects,

Smog causes..... illness.... and premature death,

from heart disease......and from lung disease.

And what is the practical importance of this?

Well, to put things into perspective,

the European Union

has just recently said

that if a Community... can reduce

the Particulate Count.... in its air

by a modest amount,

that the benefit will be

a modest reduction in the number of premature deaths

in that community.

So, Particulate matter.....does matter

when it comes to human health.


End of Part I

Part II.

As I illustrated at the beginning

through our 6 Scenarios in Air Quality,

most people are aware of smog

because of the effect that it has

on their breathing.

Smog is not visible at close range,

but if you want to actually see the stuff

all you have to do is drive along Highway 401

east from the City of Toronto.... in the summer

when you can often observe....

a dome of smog..... hanging over the City

as a kind of a sickly orange haze.

(Remember Dr. Bates' description

of the Acid Summer Haze Effect.)

If you keep driving,

as you pass the Cement Plant

at Bowmanville on the Lake Ontario shore,

you will sometimes see

a long plume of smoke

leaving the smoke stack

and snaking its way for miles to the east

as the cement kiln emissions

travel on the prevailing south west wind

towards..........Quinte West ...

and Belleville....and Prince Edward County...

The idea here is that .... air masses

travel Eastern Ontario

from locations the south and west of us.

You can easily see how this happens

if you just look at the weather radar maps

for the whole continent

which are displayed in real time now

at websites such as .

You can see there

how week after week

there is a constant movement ....

a constant march.....of air masses ,

and low pressure areas....and high pressure areas

from the American mid west,

up the Ohio Valley,

across Lake Erie and Lake Ontario,

and straight down the St. Lawrence Valley,

and from there the Atlantic coast.

So we tend to blame the Americans

as the primary source..... of our air quality problems,

you know, all those nasty industrial sources

in the Ohio Valley sending their emissions here.

And at the same time I get the impression

that people in Ontario

are walking around, secure in the belief

that there is effective regulation of air quality

by the Government of Ontario.

After all , we are doing pretty well

in water quality regulation now,

so why would the same not apply

to our own air standards?

Indeed, the Ontario MoE keeps telling us

that Ontario air standards are "the toughest in North America"

However, I suggest that

a more accurate way to put it

would be to say

that Ontario air standards....are "the weakest in North America,

(except for all the rest)".

How do we know this?

First of all, two international commissions,

the IJC,and the CEC,

have both recently focused

on Canadian federal government data

which reported that.... at least

One Billion Kg of chemicals (that is, one million tonnes)

were released by Canadian Industries

into the Great Lakes Basin environment.......

most of this into the air,

in each of the five years....... 1998 to 2002.

And the situation has not changed substantially

in the 5 or 6 years since then.

This sounds like a lot.........

1 Billion Kg of industrial emissions

dumped into the air of the Great Lakes basin

each year.

And that is only the amount that is reported...

a lot of these emissions go unreported.

So that information alone

shows you in-effective....

our current regulatory program is.

And this is after a 40 year reign

by the Ontario MoE as the regulator

of provincial air quality.

So, together with their federal counterparts

these two levels of government

have been remarkably

in assuring good air our region.

The second way that we know

that Ontario air standards are not so great

is that.... by looking at 2 or 3 local examples

we find that profitable industries

are being allowed.... to pollute the air.

So it appears that the MoE

as the Ontario regulator of Air quality

is behind in its work.

In Ontario we certainly have made progress

in the regulation of Water Quality

since the ..Walkerton incident,

but in the matter of Air Quality.........

industrial air pollution

and other sources of air pollution

remain ....out of control.

The history of the regulation of air quality in Ontario

is interesting, and this is where

I would like to tell you about

Dr. Donald Chant,

to whom I referred at the beginning.

Dr. Chant was a second Canadian

who also had an important role

in our understanding of the science of air quality.

He was orginally an entomologist ,

and as such he became

a very highly regarded scientist in Canada.

He started his career

as head of the federal Entomology Lab

here in Belleville, back in the 1950's.

Eventually he became

Chairman of the Zoology department

at the University of Toronto in the 1960's.

Now at that time,

in the early 1960's,

a phosphate.... production .....plant

was built on Lake Erie, near Dunnville, Ontario.

It was owned by a British firm,

called ERCO, the Electric Reduction Company.

This factory soon became controversial

as apparently it was poisoning

the surrounding countryside

with Fluoride emissions

which were coming out of its smokestack,

as an unwanted byproduct.

(In fact, ERCO proved to be

an all round environmental hazard

as its legitimate product,

which was phosphate,

used in fertilizers and detergents,

ultimately proved to be the cause

of the so called "death" of Lake Erie

from Eutrophication

in the late 1960's.)

So the company managed to pollute...

the well as the air

with their products.... and byproducts.

Nevertheless they managed to continue in operation

for the next 30 years,

until the early 1990's.

So CBC Television journalists

Stanley Burke and Larry Gosnell,

did an expose in a film format ,

on this fluoride air pollution issue

and they gave their film the controversial title

"Air of Death",

which when it was broadcast

not surprisingly

caused quite a public outcry.

To which the Ontario government eventually responded

by establishing a Royal Commission of inquiry,

called the Hall Commission ,

to look into the matter.

Meanwhile, back at the University of Toronto,

Dr. Chant had assigned

one of his 4th year classes

to look into the case.

One thing led to another, and in 1967

Dr. Chant became the first chairman

of a new organization called

...Pollution Probe,

of which you may have heard,

and which still exists.

Until that time the Regulator

of Air Pollution in Ontario

was the provincial Department of Health.

However the feeling was,

based on this case, as well as others,

that the Department of Health

was not being very effective in that role.

So by the early 70's

largely because of the work of Pollution Probe, and Dr. Chant,

the province had created what is now called

the Ministry of Environment

to regulate environmental matters,

including air quality.

This was an example of

Dr. Chant's strong leadership

in environmentall issue in this province,

which over the course of his career

was second to none.

There was a slightly comical

parallel storyline in the ERCO case.


the Vice President of ERCO at the time

was Dr. Omond Solandt.

Dr. Solandt was a medical doctor

and he was another very eminent Canadian scientist

who the chairman of the Science Council of Canada,

and as well the Chancellor of the University of Toronto,

all at that same time that he was V P of ERCO.....(he wore a lot of hats.)

So these two scientists,

Dr. Chant, and Dr. Solandt,

who held powerful positions

in the same faculty

at the same university

at the same time

found themselves

on the opposite sides of the fence

on the ERCO issue.

As we think back on this

40 years after the fact

we can only imagine the interesting discussions

that must have been held

at the U of T Faculty Club

around this issue... in 1967.

Another Canadian who has been,

and who continues to be,

influential in Ontario air quality

is Mr. Gordon Miller,

the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

I think that we have to recognise

the very strong contribution

that Mr. Miller has made

to our understanding

of the regulation of industrial air pollution

in Ontario.

Although his office has no power,

in his last five Annual Reports ,

which I commend to you,

Mr. Miller really has done a very good job

in focusing on... how far behind

Ontario regulators are ...

in the matter of air quality.

A recent edition of the Commissioner's report

is entitled ....Neglecting Our Obligations. (Show)

The cover page shows

a number of smokestacks in the background,

and the silhouette of a child

in the foreground.

This image itself is a very Powerful one.

The fundamental issue in air quality

that Mr. Miller has identified

is that at present, the Government of Ontario

regulates industrial air emissions

by using two....very.....ineffective ...methods.

The first method .....which is the one

that has been used for many years now,

until very recently,

is called.... POI..... the Point of Impingement method.

In the POI method....

air samples are taken at a location...

which is some distance away....

from the actual source of pollution,

for example, a smoke stack.

Somebody....a technician....goes out

to the property line... of the industry

that has the smokestack,

and they take an air sample ... in a bottle,

and this is sent off to a lab for analysis.

That is the POI method.

Now that method, POI, has with great fanfare..

recently been replaced

by a supposedly.... even better method

which is called ... the AAQC ..

the Ambient Air quality Criteria method

In this new, AAQC method,

no actual air samples are taken all.

Instead, concentrations of air pollution

that might be expected to occur

in the area around..........any particular source

are predicted by models.

And if you have ever seen

any of the mathematical formulas

on which these computer models are based.....

and on which these Risk Assessments are based

they are very complex....

......and they are very difficult to understand.





Effectively, it seems to me

that although these methods

give the appearance

of being very scientifically based,

and therefore, presumably, very reliable,

that in actual fact

what these Regulatory methods do ,

if you look at the numbers,

is they allow industry.... to dump

as much chemical waste it wants..

into the atmosphere .....

as long as the wind is blowing in the right direction.

Commissioner Miller's point is that

until the government regulates emissions

by what actually comes out of the smokestack,

in other words, testing that is done right at the Mouth of the stack,

which is called ....Source Testing,

which you would think after all

would be the obvious method to use,

and that until they do that,

that we are going to continue

to have a problem.

A good local current example

and one that you might want to look at

if you are interested in air quality issues,

is that of the Cement plant in Bath,

near Kingston.

The company there has received a permit

to burn what they refer to as...

alternative fuels...

in their cement kiln.

Now there was a LOT ........of local objection

to this proposal.....

when it first came along....about 3 years ago.

Nevertheless, the regulator, the Ontario MoE,

on Christmas Eve 2006 no less,

delivered a little present to the community of Bath,

when it announced.......... approval ...

of the company's application

to burn Tires

in the Bath cement kiln.

Now at first glance, this proposal has a certain appeal,

but , because of their chemical composition,

tires, when they are to be disposed of,

are actually a form of..... hazardous waste.

Furthermore, in researching this matter,

a local citizens group

discovered that other kinds of....Hazardous waste

had already been imported

from the United States...

and had already been burned

in the cement kiln at Bath

over the previous 2 or 3 years,

with no public announcement at all

ever made the regulator,

and apparently with no adequate... air quality

monitoring place.

This cement kiln is equipped

With air pollution control equipment

that was originally installed in 1974.....34 years ago,

when the plant was relocated

to Bath .....from Point Anne.

One might therefore wonder

if there will be effective control

of the type of emissions... that might be expected

if these alternative fuels,

these hazardous wastes,

are to be burned... in a kiln

that was never designed for that purpose

in the first place.

In my opinion this decision by the MoE

to allow the cement company

to burn these alternative fuels

suggests once again, as in 1967, 40 years ago,

that the wrong... government... department

is regulating industrial air emissions in Ontario.

This is a human health issue.

It is the Ontario Public Health officials

who are the experts in human health,

not the MoE.

Furthermore, as Mr. Miller,

the ECO,

has recently pointed out

of every dollar of the Ontario Provincial Budget

the Ministry of Health gets 40 cents, or more

of every provincial dollar.

The MoE, on the other hand,

which incidentally has a huge mandate,

gets 1/3 of one cent.

That is how much we are investing

in environmental protection

in this province.....1/3 of one cent.

and I think that we a getting...what we are paying for,

because as a result, in the past decade

the Ontario MoE...... has been reduced

to a SMALL,..... minor, ......department

of the Ontario government.

So the MoE... is in no position

to be regulating these BIG, .....major,...... industries,

either financially,

or by virtue of expertise.

In some cases, these are ....multinational,

......multibillion dollar....corporations.

So it's a kind of a David and Goliath situation.

Therefore, it seems to me ....that we should return

to the original idea..... of regulation of air quality

by an appropriate division........of the Department of Health.

In conclusion,

to improve air quality in Ontario

action needs to be taken....

by individual citizens......

and by government ..regulators.

Citizens can do a great deal to Stop Smog...

4 ways........ that I could mention are:

First: Let us all.....Use less electricity and gasoline.

For example

(unless you are elderly or asthmatic or otherwise ill)

turn off the Air conditioner

in your home or car as much as possible.

It's a simple thing,.....and it will save you some money.


that large pickup truck or oversized car

that you are driving around town.....

is a public health hazard.

Get rid of it....

Drive a smaller car.....and drive it less.

Third, if you live out in the country....

stop burning waste

in that back yard burn barrel

(it is one of the worst sources of air pollution)

and if you live in town.....

tell the Board of Health

that you are opposed

to the construction of new waste incinerators.

(As an aside, there is, as we speak,

a very active proposal on the table to build

a very large waste incinerator

in a place called Clarington,

which is in the Oshawa region,

once again, right upwind from us here,

in Eastern Ontario.


Ontario Air Standards are outdated.

Again, when you hear the GO telling you

that Ontario air standards

are "the toughest in North America"


that it would be more accurate to say

that Ontario air standards....

are "the weakest in North America,

(except for all the rest)".

Tell the Board of Health....

that you want effective regulation

of industrial air pollution our province.

At the present is just not happening.


...............Mr. Chairman.