Smog Mass Killer

’20 Times as many people as there are murders in T.O.’

By Brad Honywill and James Wallace
Thursday, May 18, 2000

About 1,000 people die in Toronto area every year because of air pollution – and conditions are getting worse, according to a new report by Toronto Health.

The frightening report, which is based on actual hospital records, dramatically raises the bar from previous estimates of 400 premature deaths per year.

“It’s killing 20 times as many people as there are murders in Toronto,” Councillor Jack Layton, chairman of the city’s environmental task force, said yesterday. “It’s a tragedy that shouldn’t be happening.”

The report, Toronto Air Pollution Burden of Illness, says that in addition to the 1,000 deaths another 5,500 people are admitted to hospital for smog-related problems, sources said yesterday.

Tens of thousands of others – mostly the elderly and very young – don’t seek hospital care but must suffer through laboured breathing, the report estimates.

Monica Campbell, manager of health promotion and environmental protection at Toronto Health and one of the authors of the report, said the situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.

She warned that increased traffic congestion and global warming are both expected to heighten smog conditions.

  • To combat the severe problem, the report recommends:
  • Significant improvements to public transit.
  • Stricter standards on emissions for key smog-causing pollutants
  • Better control of emissions form coal-fired electricity plants such as the Lakeview Generating Station in Mississauga.

‘Safeguards’ The station is the single largest source of smog in the GTA, responsible for about 25% of smog-producing emissions in Toronto even though it is only operating at 16% capacity.

At Queen’s Park yesterday, Environment Minister Dan Newman announced an indefinite moratorium on the sale of the province’s coal-fired plants, including Lakeview.

After years of shopping around the province’s dirty, run-down plants, Newman said a moratorium will remain in place “pending a review of options for environmental protection.”

However, Newman refused to rule out the possibility the province may sell its coal-fired plants in future.

The deregulation of Ontario’s electricity market next year will open the door for the province to sell off power plants to the private sector. Before that happens, the government wants to review “different scenarios” to ensure there are “safeguards” to protect the environment, Newman said.