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May 26, 2000
Health Experts Call for Urgent Action on Toronto Air Quality: New Study Shows too Many Lives at Risk
Toronto Public Health --The Medical Officer of Health
will present a major research study on air quality to the Board of Health on
Monday May 29th and will ask the Board to support urgent action to reduce air

Dr. Sheela Basrur, Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. David Pengelly, an
internationally recognized air quality expert affiliated with the University of
Toronto and McMaster University, will present the recently released study,
entitled Air Pollution Burden of Illness in Toronto.
This study determined that each year about 1,000 Toronto residents die
prematurely, and another 5,500 are admitted to hospital because of air

"One thousand premature deaths from air pollution is equivalent to four
international jets crashing each year and killing everyone on board. If air
pollution deaths were this visible to everyone, I'm sure we would see much
faster progress on improving air quality," said Dr. Basrur.

Contrary to popular belief, air pollution is a health problem year round, not
just in the summer. The pollutants examined in this study, and which are
responsible for most of the harm to health, are present at unhealthy levels
every month of the year. These pollutants are caused by the burning of fossil
fuels such as gasoline and diesel from vehicles, coal from power plants, and
oil and gas to heat buildings.

"Regarding air quality standards, our study indicates that existing regulations
are not adequate to protect human health," states Dr. Pengelly. "In general,
Toronto's pollution levels are well below those permitted by both the federal
and provincial government. Despite this, we have an enormous burden of illness
in this city due to bad air."

The Board of Health will be asked to support three key areas for action:
federal/provincial investment in public transit; improvement of air quality
standards; and accelerated action on controlling pollution from coal-fired
power plants.

"Canadian transit experts tell us that the TTC and GO Transit are among the
most under funded transit systems in North America," said Dr. Basrur. "Given
that so much of air-related illness in Toronto is due to vehicle emissions,
action taken now to increase the capacity and service of the public transit
system in the GTA is the best way to improve public health in the near future.
This will require major funding support from both the federal and provincial
government, consistent with practices in major American cities"

Presentation to the Board of Health:

DATE: Monday, May 29, 2000.
TIME: Approximately 10:00 a.m. (Item #1 on Agenda)
PLACE: Committee Room 1

More Information: Technical Research Report Summary Report Back to Media Release

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