The following article from the online edition of the Globe and Mail may be
of interest to Sustran. The online article contains links to the Ontario
Medical Association's estimates of health impacts of air pollution and the
Canadian Automobile Association's estimates of the cost of running a car.
Monday, June 04
Clean-air campaign fights rising air pollution
By JOSIPA PETRUNIC
When commuters stepped off the train at Toronto's downtown Union Station
Monday morning, they got an unexpected welcome from a provincial minister
and a slew of supporters.
The commuters weren't athletes coming home from a successful tournament.
They weren't dignitaries. They weren't really special in any way. All they
did was take the train to work.
But for environmental groups such as Ontario's Pollution Probe, which has
supported clean-air campaigns for nearly a decade, those commuters are
saviours. With millions of illnesses, and thousands of deaths and hospital
visits in Ontario every year due to smog, the group says that not only is
commuting good for the environment, it literally saves lives.
In Ontario last year, there were about 1,900 premature deaths due to smog,
along with another 9,800 hospital admissions and 47 million minor
illnesses, such as asthma attacks, allergic reactions and throat problems.
The vast majority of the air pollution that causes those illnesses comes
The Ontario Medical Association, which compiled those figures, also says
that by 2015, the number of premature deaths due to smog will rise to
2,600; hospital admissions will number 13,000; emergency room visits will
be 18,000; and minor illnesses will increase to 53 million.
That's why Pollution Probe officials and provincial Environment Minister
Elizabeth Witmer say they were at Union Station early in the morning,
congratulating commuters as they stepped onto the platform to make their
way toward the subway station or nearby office buildings.
The greetings heralded the official launch of Pollution Probe's month-long
anti-smog campaign. The "Clean Air" campaign runs throughout June, and gets
mid- to large-sized companies to compete for the most tonnes of pollution
prevented. Companies that sign up are supposed to encourage employees to
commute by any other means than driving.
Although bus riding and biking are obvious options, some participants have
been more ambitious in the past, says Patty Chilton, a director at
Pollution Probe. Last year, a couple lawyers canoed to the Harbour and then
carried their canoe through the streets to their office, she says.
Pollution Probe mathematically assigns a number to different means of
transportation that employees use, and then converts it into the tonnes of
Ms. Chilton says employees saved a total of 380 tonnes of pollution last
year including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other pollutants,
She hopes to get more companies involved each year, especially considering
the costs associated with air pollution.
Air pollution adds more than $1-billion annually to the health-care system
and to employers and employees because of lost work days, the medical
It also estimates the value of "pain and suffering, and loss of life," due
to smog is another $10-billion, which will rise to about $12-billion in 2015.
Pollution Probe says it has recently gained support from the federal
government, too. The federal Liberals are apparently going to add to the
Clean Air effort by announcing about $145-million in new environmental
spending over the next two weeks. Some of the money will go toward
improving water quality, energy efficiency and reducing smog across the
Environment Minister David Anderson and National Resources Minister Ralph
Goodale say they are also planning to announce $50-million to reduce smog
at a "smog summit" June 11 in Toronto. Those announcements are to coincide
with this year's national Environment Week, which runs until Saturday, and
with World Environment Day, held on Tueday.
But John Wellner, a director at Pollution Probe who follows the statistical
rate of deaths from smog in the province, says a quicker local solution
would be to lower the cost of bus passes so that commuters are attracted
away from their cars.
With current prices, it costs more than $1,100 a year to buy a transit pass
in Toronto. That compares with the estimated $8,900 a year that it costs to
own and operate a car, according to the Canadian Automobile Association,
which included the cost of gas, insurance and parking in its calculations.
But Mr. Wellner says there are thousands of more people who will not
abandon their cars until public transit is even cheaper, faster and more
"Governments have to increase their financial interest in public transit,"
With reports from Canadian Press