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Making Headway on Smog

Definite Progress on Smog in Ontario

All too often, we hear about the negative predictions of climate change, most of which is doom and gloom.  It is easy to ignore this news as it can really bring a person down.  But there have been successes that should be celebrated.

One great success story is Ontario’s efforts and results in reducing smog.  In 2005, the Ontario Medical Association issued a report (Illness Cost of Air Pollution-2005) that showed the health effects and quantified the cost of smog to Ontarians.  The report showed that in 2005, there were;

  • 5,829 premature deaths
  • 16,807 hospital admissions
  • 59,696 emergency room visits
  • 29 million minor illnesses
  • $374M in lost productivity
  • $507M in healthcare costs
  • $6,392M in loss of life

What has changed?

This gave a total cost to the province of $7,809M, or $623 for every citizen.  Since then, smog alerts have dropped drastically.  In 2005, there were a total of 368 alerts across 62 Ontario communities.  Since the last Ontario coal plant was closed in 2014, there have only been 7 smog alerts, one in Toronto (2016) and the other 6 in communities near the Manitoba border (all in 2018…the information I have does not give exact dates, but I’m guessing the summer forest fires in eastern Ontario are responsible for the 6 smog alerts).

In fact, if you look at the chart below, there is a strong correlation between smog alerts and installed coal plant capacity.

Smog Alerts vs Coal

This is not enough to conclude that eliminating coal plants has eliminated the smog problem.

Firstly, the reduction in smog alerts is likely due to a number of factors such as industrial emissions controls, reduced transportation emissions, emission reductions in neighbouring provinces/states, etc.

Secondly, just because smog alerts have become negligible, doesn’t mean that smog below the alert level isn’t an issue.

It would be interesting to see an updated OMP Illness Cost of Air Pollution report to see how much we’ve actually progressed.   When analyzing our successes, we need to account for the financial benefits.  I’d love to know how much of the $7,809M/year has been reduced due to our efforts.  Regardless, we should celebrate the fact that we live in a healthier province.