Hamilton’s Air Quality Improving, Still Impacts Health

Press release from the City of Hamilton below regarding the 2011 Clean Air Hamilton progress report. You can find the report here.

Hamilton’s Air Quality has also been in the news quite a bit lately. Here’s a list of links:

Hamilton Spectator:
July 12, 2012 – No more cash for air quality study
July 11, 2012 – Red Hill pollution predictions blown away
July 10, 2012 – Hamilton needs more air quality monitoring
July 9, 2012 –Mobile air testing program up in smoke

CBC Hamilton:
July 12, 2012 – Hamilton worst neighbourhoods
July 12, 2012 – Hamilton air quality

Mountain News:
July 11, 2012 – Heavy industry & highways put residents at health risk

AM 900 CHML:
July 11, 2012 – Clean Air Hamilton tables good news report




Hamilton’s Air Quality Improving, Still Impacts Health

HAMILTON, ON July 11, 2012 Clean Air Hamilton reports that Hamilton’s air quality is improving but there is still room for further action. The multi-stakeholder group presented its annual report on Hamilton’s air quality to City Councilors at the Board of Health meeting today.  

“We have two very clear messages for Hamilton residents,” explains Dr. Brian McCarry who has chaired Clean Air Hamilton since its inception in 1998. “We have seen significant improvements in local air quality in Hamilton over the past decade, but there is still more work to be done to reduce the impacts of transportation emissions, fugitive dusts and industrial emissions.  Urban design and land use planning decisions made by cities and personal lifestyle choices made by citizens have significant, long-term implications on a city’s air quality and public health.  Air quality is not just a nuisance; it is a public health issue.”

The 2011 Clean Air Hamilton Progress Report shows that since the mid-1990s there have been steady, significant reductions in many air pollutant emissions in Hamilton.  The annual percentage decreases as measured at the downtown air monitoring site (MOE Station 29000) are a 3.3% (per year) reduction in total suspended particulate (TSP) levels, 1.9% in inhalable particulate matter (PM10), 3.2%  in respirable particulate matter (PM2.5), 2.7% in nitrogen dioxide (NO2), 2.8% in sulphur dioxide (SO2), 6.5% in total reduced sulphur odours, 6.0% in benzene and 5.3% in PAH (measured as benzo[a]pyrene). Unfortunately, transboundary ground level ozone (O3) levels have been steadily increasing.

Long-term decreases in air pollutants in Hamilton can be attributed to a combination of improved emissions performance of vehicles and the concerted actions of local individuals, organizations, industries, the City of Hamilton and other levels of government to reduce air emissions.

Poor air quality causes a range of health effects impacts, including eye, nose and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing, and the exasperation of existing conditions like asthma.  Some segments of the population, particularly young children and the elderly, are much more susceptible to poor air quality. 

An Air Quality Health report prepared for Clean Air Hamilton by SENES Consulting Inc. estimated that five key air pollutants – nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide – contribute to approximately 186 premature deaths and over 700 respiratory or cardiovascular-related hospital admissions in Hamilton each year. Respiratory illnesses account for 43 percent and cardiovascular illnesses account for 36 percent of the deleterious health outcomes arising from air pollution in Hamilton. 

An Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) pilot program was introduced to Hamilton in 2011 and provides the public with useful information about air quality conditions and strategies citizens can use to reduce their exposures to pollutants. Clean Air Hamilton is pleased to have the AQHI in Hamilton, thanks to the collaborative efforts of partners including Hamilton Public Health Services, Ministry of the Environment, Environment Canada and Health Canada. Information on the AQHI is available at www.airhealth.ca

A number of recent sustainable transportation initiatives have been developed in Hamilton that help reduce air emissions and improve individual health by encouraging healthy lifestyles.  These initiatives range from car sharing, carpooling, driver education and transit education to increased active transportation initiatives such as policies that encourage cycling, walking and the development of ‘walkable’ communities.

Mobile monitoring studies undertaken by Clean Air Hamilton have for the first time allowed a detailed examination of air pollutant levels in a number of neighbourhoods in Hamilton.  This study showed that there are differences in air quality between neighbourhoods and that emissions from transportation sources (cars, light duty trucks and heavy-duty trucks) result in very high local levels of pollutants near major roads and highways, particularly areas downwind of major intersections.

Where possible, transportation and land use planning programs in Hamilton should co-ordinate their efforts and consider both the short-term and long-term health impacts of transportation-related emissions. These factors need to be considered in transportation planning, urban design and encouragement to adopt active modes of transportation.

Emissions from mobile sources (personal and commercial vehicles), road dust re-entrainment and fugitive dusts are the major local sources of airborne pollutants in all areas of Hamilton.  The impacts of industrial emissions are manifest primarily in areas proximate to and downwind of local industries.  Reductions in all of these sources must be realized if we are to continue to make meaningful improvements to local air quality and public health.

Clean Air Hamilton is a community-based action committee composed of representatives from government, academic institutions, industry, environmental organizations and residential associations.  For more information visit: www.cleanair.hamilton.ca

Media contacts:

Dr. Brian McCarry                                          Brian Montgomery
Chair,                                                            Air Quality & Climate Change Coordinator,
Clean Air Hamilton                                         City of Hamilton

mccarry@mcmaster.ca                                  cleanair@hamilton.ca
Ph:  905-525-9140 ext. 24400                         Ph: 905-546-2424 ext. 1275

Brian Montgomery
Air & Climate Change Coordinator
Hamilton Public Health Services
City of Hamilton
T: 905-546-2424 extn. 1275
E: cleanair@hamilton.ca


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