More money needed to measure neighbourhood pollution

Hamilton's air quality is improving, but a local group says the city still needs to do more monitoring of individual neighbourhoods.
Clean Air Hamilton hopes for more money to monitor air quality in the city's neighbourhoods. (Sheryl Nadler/CBC)

Hamilton's air quality is improving, but a local group says the city still needs to do more monitoring of individual neighbourhoods.

Clean Air Hamilton presented its annual air quality progress report to the city's board of health Wednesday morning. It shows that levels of nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5 — air pollution particles that impact human health — are decreasing. Ozone levels remain steady.

But Clean Air Hamilton would like money for more mobile air monitoring, which measures pollutants in neighbourhoods around the city.

Clean Air Hamilton currently has data for 11 neighbourhoods. The ideal would be to expand that to 15 neighbourhoods, which would cost around $95,000 to $100,000, said chair Brian McCarry.

Another $50,000 would help build a website that Hamiltonians can check daily to get air quality information for their individual neighbourhoods.

Coun. Brian McHattie wants the money to come from the city's budget. He's talking to Hamilton's Medical Officer of Health office about finding money in its 2013 budget to fund the project.

"If you look at how people die in Hamilton, this is a huge contributor of ill health and hospital admissions," McHattie said after the meeting.

"This causes many more deaths than West Nile or SARS."

Clean Air Hamilton estimates that air pollution contributes to 180 premature deaths in Hamilton each year.

Deaths are most likely on the QEW and 403, followed by the Jones Road and Arvin Avenue area, Wentworth North around the Eva Rothwell Centre, Eastport Drive and McAnulty Boulevard.

Local physicist Denis Corr used a mobile monitoring unit to collect the data. Past funding has come from a combination of ArcelorMittal Dofasco and Clean Air Hamilton.

But because of a lack of funding, the van is sitting dormant, McCarry said.

The number of smog and poor air days have decreased overall in the last 10 years, Clean Air Hamilton's report says.

It shows a decrease in PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide, and steady levels of ozone. The wind carries much of Hamilton's ozone from the Ohio Valley, McCarry said.

But pollution still causes more than 700 hospital visits for respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Clean Air Hamilton made a number of recommendations to the board of health, including:

  1. Plan transportation and urban design in a way that recognizes the impacts of transportation emissions.
  2. Encourage Hamiltonians to carpool, bicycle, walk, and use public transit and hybrid or electric vehicles.
  3. Lead by example through transportation planning and fleet upgrades.
  4. Work with local industries and the Ministry of Environment to identify and control pollution sources.
  5. Continue with a "broad suite of actions" to improve local air quality and combat climate change.