Health Care Facts

Canadian Medical Association

  1. In 2008, 21,000 Canadians will die from the effects of air pollution. While most of these deaths will be due to chronic exposure over a number of years, 2,682 will be the result of acute short term exposure.
  2. By 2031, almost 90,000 people will have died from the acute effects of air pollution. The number of deaths due to long-term exposure to air pollution will be 710,000.
  3. 42% of air pollution associated acute premature deaths will be as a result of cardiovascular disease.
  4. In 2008, over 80% of acute premature deaths (2,156 deaths) associated with air pollution will be in those over 65 years of age.
  5. Approximately 25 deaths per year among those under 19 years of age will be attributable to short term exposure to air pollution; close to 600 premature deaths will accumulate between 2008 and 2031.
  6. Quebec and Ontario will have the largest proportion of acute premature deaths (approximately 70%), yet only 62% of Canadians live in Central Canada.
  7. The number of premature deaths associated with chronic exposure to air pollution is expected to rise 83% between 2008 and 2031.
  8. In 2008, almost 11,000 hospital admissions will result from exposure to air pollution. By 2031, close to 18,000 people will be admitted because of air pollution – a 62% increase during that period.
  9. Over 92,000 emergency department visits associated with air pollution exposure are expected in 2008 increasing to nearly 152,000 by 2031.
  10. In 2008, it is estimated that there will be over 620,000 doctor’s office visits because of air pollution. This total is expected to rise to over 940,000 visits in 2031 if air quality does not improve.
  11. In 2008, economic costs of air pollution will top $8 billion. By 2031, these costs will have accumulated to over $250 billion.

The Effects of Ground Level Ozone on Human Health

Ozone (generated from gasoline powered yard equipment) in the air we breathe can harm our health—typically on hot, sunny days when ozone can reach unhealthy levels. Even relatively low levels of ozone can cause health effects.  People with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active outdoors may be particularly sensitive to ozone.

Children are at greatest risk from exposure to ozone because their lungs are still developing and they are more likely to be active outdoors when ozone levels are high, which increases their exposure.  Children are also more likely than adults to have asthma.

Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Ground level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.

Ozone can:

  • Make it more difficult to breathe deeply and vigorously.
  • Cause shortness of breath and pain when taking a deep breath.
  • Cause coughing and sore or scratchy throat.
  • Inflame and damage the airways.
  • Aggravate lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.
  • Increase the frequency of asthma attacks.
  • Make the lungs more susceptible to infection.
  • Continue to damage the lungs even when the symptoms have disappeared.

These effects may lead to increased school absences, medication use, visits to doctors and emergency rooms, and hospital admissions. Research also indicates that ozone exposure may increase the risk of premature death from heart or lung disease.

Ozone is particularly likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in urban environments. It is a major part of urban smog.  Ozone can also be transported long distances by wind.  For this reason, even rural areas can experience high ozone levels.  And, in some cases, ozone can occur throughout the year in some southern and mountain regions. Learn more about the formation and transport of ground level ozone.

If you’re a health care provider, visit AIRNow’s Health Care Provider page for educational materials.

*Source: USA – Environmental Protection Agency