Path to Healthier Air: Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness Update(15 page pdf, Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto Board of Health, Apr. 11, 2014)
Today we review an updated report from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health on the health impacts from air pollution in Canada’s largest city (and the 4th largest in the USA and Canada). The good news is that the number of premature deaths have decreased by 23% and hospitalizations by 41% over the last decade showing the benefits of a number of steps taken to reduce vehicle emissions including a Bike Plan, A Green Fleet Plan and the ChemTrac program to follow emissions from businesses. A major improvement also resulted from the provincial order to shut down all coal-fired utilities by 2014.
The bad news is that traffic related pollution contributes to 20% of these deaths and if one considers only pollution originating from within city boundaries, 42% of deaths. One culprit is the role of heavy, diesel-powered vehicles which make up only 1.5% of vehicles but are responsible for 80% of PM 2.5 and over half of NOx emissions. One recommendation is to develop an urban freight strategy which would shift truck delivery away from rush hours and improve efficiency. Another is to add to the present network of four surface air monitors in order to pin point sources of air pollution which also include toxic gases from businesses in the city.
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