While the government wastes its time and our money tackling our own personal lifestyle choices and trying to tell us how to live – the real problems, not controllable by us, are killing us slowly. Environmental protection is one of the few reasons we need a government. In most countries aside from New Zealand, Israel, and few others, governments are failing miserably in this most important and urgent obligation.
How smoggy? 11,000 particles per cubic centimetre
By Eric McGuinness
The Hamilton Spectator BURLINGTON (Jun 1, 2006)
The air at nose level along busy Plains Road held almost 11,000 ultrafine pollution particles per cubic centimetre yesterday afternoon -- 11,000 in a space the size of a sugar cube—as all of southern Ontario was blanketed by smog.
But the count quickly soared as a heavy, diesel-powered delivery truck crawled past the Fortinos-IKEA plaza, hitting 46,000 as the truck pulled away.
Ultrafine particles are the tiniest of the particles of soot, unburned fuel and other contaminants small enough to find their way deep into our lungs.
The Ontario Medical Association says ultrafine and fine airborne particles are the culprits in many smog-related illnesses, resulting in thousands of emergency room visits and millions of dollars in health-care costs every year.
Burlington Councillor Joan Lougheed watched with amazement and worry as University of Toronto student Amy Peers used a hand-held monitor to show just how much local sources contribute to air pollution and how bad it can be right where drivers, pedestrians and cyclists breathe it in.
"It speaks to the importance of the city’s anti-idling campaign," Lougheed said. "We can all take part in an everyday way by turning off our engines when we pull over and stop."
She said there’s also a need to increase use of public transit and to create more bus and carpool lanes like those on Highway 403 in Oakville.
Kelly Sabaliauskas, a second U of T student working with the Toronto-based Clean Air Partnership, used a different hand-held monitor to measure the micrograms per cubic metre of both ultrafine and slightly larger dust particles, a count less affected by transient sources.
At the bus stop on Plains at Francis Road, the digital readout showed 81-83 micrograms, almost double the 45-micrograms that would trigger an air quality advisory and a warning to avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
The count a block south in the Bolus Park playground was 76, evidence of some benefit of being away from heavy traffic, but both readings reflected the fact that overall air quality was especially bad in Halton, Hamilton and Brantford yesterday.
Ontario’s Air Quality Index (which uses a completely different scale) stood at 61 in Burlington at 9 a.m., highest in the province and 11 points into the poor range. But Gabriella Kalapos of the Clean Air Partnership said there are harmful health effects even at much lower levels.
By 2 p.m., the AQI in Burlington had dropped to 50 -- the cutoff between moderate and poor—but Oakville had hit 57, tied with Port Stanley and Sarnia as the worst places to inhale in Ontario.
Yesterday’s demonstration was part of the run-up to a two day Toronto Smog Summit, which begins on June 7, Clean Air Day in Canada.
In another effort to raise awareness of air pollution, Hamilton will try to coax drivers out of their cars next week when it competes with similar-sized cities such at Waterloo and Winnipeg in the cross-Canada Commuter Challenge. Details are to be announced at a breakfast meeting at the Chamber of Commerce this morning.